Habash was no role model

Israel's Arab politicians appear to be promoting intensified sectarian conflict.

Habash 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Habash 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
At a special sitting on Friday afternoon, the High Court of Justice turned down a petition by Arab MKs and Adalah-The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel demanding that it countermand Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen's ban on a public memorial planned for Friday in Nazareth for none other than arch-terrorist George Habash. The organizers promptly declared that, the court's decree notwithstanding, a commemoration would go ahead - and an outdoor rally in downtown Nablus ensued. They had warned that the prohibition against their projected gathering would only magnify it; this does not seem to have been the case. Habash, founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, died in Amman on January 26. The banned event at Nazareth's Abu Maher Hall was intended to mark the end of the mourning period. Besides the contempt they expressed for a judicial decision unfavorable to the petitioners - somewhat anomalous in view of the alacrity of their to resort to Israel's High Court - a deeper concern stems from the fact that the outlawed memorial was sponsored by the broadest array of Israeli Arab leaders and activists, including the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee and MKs from all Arab-Israeli parties. The notion of the leadership of the Israeli Arab community pressing to honor one of the most ruthless and bloodthirsty terrorist enemies of their own state serves to sadly underscore the escalating radicalization, and sometimes unabashed anti-Israel agitation, within the leadership of Israel's Arab sector. The determination to celebrate "Habash's legacy" is only the latest troubling instance. Others include forbidden junkets by Arab MKs to enemy states, examples of their expressing open support for Hizbullah in the Second Lebanon War, demands for Arab autonomy within Green-Line Israel, and a plethora of position papers opposing Israel's characterization as a Jewish state. Attempting to crown one of Israel's most implacable and ferocious foes as a local hero and role model represents a deliberate thumbing-of-the-nose at the state - and an entirely counter-productive one at that. Were the likes of Habash, his admirers, successors and rival terror leaders to succeed, the very democracy whose institutions safeguard Israel's Arab population would be destroyed, and their freedoms and security would disappear along with those of the Jewish majority in the sole state in the region genuinely committed to equal rights for all its citizens. Under the tutelage of the Marxist-Leninist Habash, who never backtracked from his demand for Israel's eradication, the PFLP pioneered and perfected modern terror techniques. It perpetrated the first skyjacking (of an El Al liner to Algeria in 1968). In 1969 the PFLP took credit for blowing up an Israel-bound Swissair jet, killing 47. In 1970 it commandeered four New York-bound planes (TWA, Swissair, BOAC and Pan Am) and detonated them before international camera crews in Zarqa, Jordan, after forcing the passengers and crews off and segregating the Jews among them. Habash was behind the dispatching of Japanese terrorists to open fire at the crowded arrival terminal in the then-Lod Airport, in which 27 were murdered. Habash was also behind the 1976 hijacking of an Air France flight to Entebbe. Those who sought this weekend to commemorate him were doubtless well aware of these career "highlights." In choosing to revere a criminal of Habash's ilk, they cast themselves knowingly on the side of Israel's most extreme adversaries. The Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas itself declared an official mourning period for Habash and feted his memory - a dismal reflection of its mindset. The affront is incomparably worse, however, when coming from Israel's own citizens and from so wide a gamut of opinion-leaders at that. Israel's Arab politicians appear to be promoting intensified sectarian conflict, fanning flames to terminally foil the better integration of Arabs into Israeli society. In so doing, they plainly do not have the best interests of their electorate at heart. It is perhaps most troubling of all that this electorate does not publicly recognize this, make clear its disapproval, and choose more moderate champions. Sadly, no dissenting voices were heard. Prominent Israeli-Arab figures seem to be seeking to outdo each other in their radicalism, evidently believing this is what their public wants, from the safety of the very state Habash had vowed to annihilate. A delegation of MKs representing all Israeli-Arab factions attended Habash's Amman funeral. Several demanded Habash be buried in his native city of Lod, in the heart of Israel; some wanted a neighborhood to be named after him there.