Whose interests?

Whatever else may be said about MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al), he cannot be accused of inconsistency or ambiguity.

ahmed tibi solemn 298 (photo credit: Ori Porat)
ahmed tibi solemn 298
(photo credit: Ori Porat)
Whatever else may be said about MK Ahmed Tibi(United Arab List-Ta'al), he cannot be accused of inconsistency orambiguity. Tibi's animus towards the Jewish state is unwavering, as ishis pugnaciousness.

Yasser Arafat's former adviser misses preciousfew opportunities to throw monkey wrenches into the Jewish state'sinterests, combating Israel on most every front.

Thus, last week, he chose an unprecedented visit to the Knessetby Palestinian journalists - organized by the Mideast Press Club,hosted by Kadima's Tzahi Hanegbi and addressed, among others, byKnesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin - to urge the Organization for EconomicCooperation and Development not to allow Israel into its ranks.Capitalizing on the fact that a phalanx of TV cameras was lined up torecord the event, a rare instance of interaction between Palestinianand Israeli journalists, held uniquely with the participation ofseveral senior legislators inside the parliament building, Tibi madethe plea knowing that it would resonate widely.

True, he didn't invoke the old Arab League boycott, but insteadhe argued that the OECD must bar Israel until its Arab citizens enjoyfull equality.

It sounds high-minded, but is it?

EQUALITY MAY be in the eye of the beholder and subject todistortive manipulation. For Tibi, who openly calls for the dismantlingof Israel as a Jewish state and for replacing it with a"state-of-all-its-citizens," nothing may signify equality until allJewish symbols are gone - the flag, national anthem, state emblem andthe declaration of independence. Tibi's notion of equality may not besatisfied until Jewish immigration is curtailed while the "Right ofReturn" is implemented, inundating the post-Jewish state with millionsof hostile Arabs.

However, by measurable economic criteria it mustbe admitted that Israel's Arab citizens enjoy a higher standard ofliving and incomparably greater freedoms than do their brethren in theArab world.

Certainly the century-long conflict erects and fortifiespsychological barriers. Things could be unimaginably better were thewalls of antagonism and suspicion brought down and if neighbors weren'talso enemies. Yet there are those who benefit from fanning the flames.

Unfortunately, incendiary rhetoric within Israel's Arab sectorpays off handsomely in political profit. In recent popularity pollsconducted by Israel's three largest Arab papers, Tibi emerged thewinner by a hefty margin.

The tragedy is that Israeli-Arab politicians like Tibi - whoserves in Israel's parliament but describes himself as a PalestinianArab and is included abroad in Palestinian delegations - radicalizetheir constituents. The radicalized Arab sector then votes forincreasingly radical representatives, who expediently pour more oil onthe flames. A vicious cycle is triggered which inescapably harms theprospects of Israel's Arab citizens. Instead of coexistence andattendant removal of whatever can be construed as discriminatory,confrontation-mongering by Israeli-Arab politicians breeds adversity.

The paradox is that they thereby do severe damage to the verypopulation they claim to look after. If Tibi genuinely cared for hisconstituency's welfare, he would advocate that the OECD forthwithaccept Israel with open arms. Whatever improves Israel's economy, afterall, will inevitably improve the lot of Israeli Arabs. A strugglingeconomy with fewer resources and job opportunities won't work in anyIsraeli's favor.

Instead, by pleading that Israel be excluded, Tibi indicatesthat peaceful economic progress is not his objective. Vilifying Israeltakes precedence over cooperating with it.

TIBI'S OWN biography, though, belies some of his complaints.The state he so maligns did not prevent him from studying medicine atthe prestigious Hebrew University Medical School, where many aspiringJewish-Israeli applicants are rejected (including Deputy ForeignMinister Danny Ayalon, with whom he duelled at last week's Knessetmeeting). Tibi declares that "no one did me a favor. I passed my exams.That has nothing to do with equality."

But it intrinsically does.

Equality is when all that counts is merit. Inequality is beingdisqualified despite high qualifications. If anything, Tibi'sexperience underscores Israel's inordinate broadmindedness. As anintern, he was fired after he got into a fight with his hospital'ssecurity guard, who he claimed used a racial slur against him, but thenwas reinstated. He went on to advise Arafat through successive terrorspates. He represented the Palestinians in negotiating sessions...

And the Supreme Court overrode a 2003 Central Election Committee ban on his Knesset candidacy.