What is the price that some are willing to pay to obtain political power? Twenty years ago, it took a car and driver, or some appointment as a deputy minister to lure a Knesset member to the side of the government. That’s fine to Western Jews but today some Israeli political leaders are about to do something that would severely alienate a large portion of Diaspora Jewry.
No, I’m not talking about the hot buttons over prayer areas at the Western Wall or the “Who is a Jew” dispute.
I’m referring to a very different threat to Israel-Diaspora relations: the prospect that terror-supporters will be given a significant role in the makeup and policies of the next government of Israel.
Last week, a newly-elected Arab member of the Knesset, Mrs. Aida Touma-Sliman, made a dramatic announcement. She unveiled a video clip which, she said, showed “Another atrocity by the occupation under the cover of the coronavirus — the IDF is spraying Palestinians at the Qalqilya checkpoint with an unknown substance…The horrors being committed under the cover of the crisis can’t be ignored.”
The clip actually showed Palestinian Authority security forces disinfecting their side of a local checkpoint.
Israel’s Defense Minister, Naftali Bennett, called Touma-Sliman “a liar, anti-Semitic and contemptible.” He’s right. But that anti-Semitic, contemptible liar could soon have a major role in the government of Israel.
Mrs. Touma-Sliman is a representative of the radical Joint Arab List. Opposition leader Benny Gantz, who is now attempting to form a new government, has indicated that he is prepared to include the JAL. This could mean officially giving the JAL control over important government ministries and Knesset committees. Or it could mean that the JAL technically will not be part of the government but will support it in any no-confidence votes, in exchange for all sorts of concessions by Gantz.
Either way, millions of Jews around the world will suddenly find themselves confronted with the frightening new phenomenon of an Israeli government that is beholden to, or partly controlled by, a party that seeks Israel’s destruction.
I am referring to the long record of statements and actions by the leaders of the Joint Arab List. Touma-Sliman’s ugly anti-Israel libel last week is just the tip of the iceberg.
The party’s official platform calls for the “right of return,” that is, allowing millions of Arabs from around the world to flood into Israel. It also calls for the release of all imprisoned Arab terrorists (whom it calls “political prisoners”) and the demolition of Israel’s “racist” security fence (so that suicide bombers can get into Israel more easily).
For anybody who thinks these radicals are loyal Israeli citizens, note that their platform pledges to “fight to annul compulsory military service for the Arab-Druze community, and against all programs of military recruitment and national service for young Arab people.”
The JAL’s leader, Ayman Odeh, openly defends Palestinian Arab violence against Israelis. When asked on Israel Army Radio about the murder of a young Israeli couple in front of their children, he replied that Palestinians have “a right to struggle” against Israel. He cited the first intifada — with its thousands of bombings, shootings and other attacks — as an example of “struggle” that is “fully justified.” Asked whether throwing rocks at Jews is legitimate, Odeh said, “I always blame the occupation for being guilty. I cannot tell the nation how to struggle, where and which target to throw the rock. I do not put red lines on the Arab Palestinian nation.” (Oct. 6, 2015)
In an interview with Al-Arabiya TV, Odeh was asked about the wave of Palestinian knife attacks against Israelis. He replied: “We should examine our history and the history of the nations to determine strategies. There is no doubt that a popular intifada is most beneficial to the Palestinian people. I, from my place, cannot tell the Palestinian people how to resist.” (March 4, 2016)
Another JAL leader, Ahmad Tibi, himself has a record of engaging in violence. In 1987, he assaulted a Hadassah Hospital security guard who had the temerity to ask Tibi to open his briefcase. Tibi smashed the guard across the head with the hard edge of the briefcase, leaving him sprawled on the ground and bleeding as Tibi strolled away.
During the 1990s, Tibi served as a senior adviser to mass-murderer Yasir Arafat. He has never expressed a word of remorse about aiding and abetting the most prolific killer of Jews in the last 50 years.
That’s not all. Two leaders of Balad—one of the factions that make up the Joint Arab List—Said Naf’a and Basel Ghattas, have served time in prison for terrorist-related activity. Naf’a was convicted of illegally entering an enemy state (Syria) and contacting a foreign agent (a leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a terrorist group). Ghattas was convicted of using his parliamentary immunity to smuggle cell phones to terrorists in Israel’s Ketziot Prison.
Is this the Israel for which Diaspora Jews prayed for 2,000 years? The Israel to which they have contributed untold millions of dollars. The Israel to which they send their children to study and devote their political activism? The Israel that is supposed to inspire them?
An Israeli government in which the Joint Arab List plays any role—official or unofficial—will ignite an unprecedented crisis between Israel and the Diaspora. I hope Israeli political leaders will keep that mind as they ponder the ramifications of their next decisions.