For all that we complain about the perfidy of the British, we have a lot to learn from them when it comes to tolerating antisemitism in the ranks of their politicians. In the wake of the scandal of antisemitism in the Labour Party, several MPs have been suspended or even expelled from the party. Of course there is still a long way to go, with outright antisemites like “Jihad Jenny” Tonge still retaining her peerage and sitting in the House of Lords.
CORRECTION: Brian Goldfarb in the comments corrects my point above, and says that Labour party members were suspended, not actual MPs.
But who are we to complain about the British when we have a person sitting in the Knesset right here in our capital city of Jerusalem who appears to deny his own connection to Israel?
MK Zouheir Bahloul of the Zionist Union Party (how ironic), caused an outrage last week when he asserted that the Palestinian who stabbed a soldier, and who was then killed by that soldier, is not a terrorist:
Speaking to Army Radio, Bahloul made the distinction between those who attack civilians and those who attack soldiers.
“I agree the stabber is a murderer, but he is not a terrorist. My problem is when this word becomes too inclusive and turns every Palestinian into a terrorist,” he said.
Rebukes also came from Bahloul’s own party. Zionist Union chairman Isaac Herzog said he “clarified to MK Bahloul that I reject and strongly condemn his statements and that the Zionist Union’s position stipulates that a terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist. It does not matter if he sets out to kill Arabs or Jews.”
Of course all the politicians on both sides of the aisle jumped on their respective bandwagons to condemn each other, but condemnation for Bahloul’s statement came from both end of the spectrum.
However, instead of backing down or apologizing, Bahloul doubled down on his assertion:
During a cultural event in the northern city of Acre, Israeli-Arab MK Bahloul said Israeli soldiers were “a symbol of the occupation” for Palestinians and asked why Jewish groups fighting British soldiers during the Mandate area could be considered as fighting for their freedom while Palestinians could not.
“What can a Palestinian, suffocating under the yoke of occupation for 49 years, do in order regain his freedom? The soldiers are, for him, a symbol of the occupation. Before 1948 there was the British Mandate here. Etzel, Lehi and the other Jewish organizations went out to the street to fight British soldiers and build your state, which is an amazing state. Why are the Palestinians not allowed to do so?” the MK, a former sports broadcaster and journalist, asked.
Comparing Israel to the British occupation is outrageous. No one offered the Jews a state at the time. Or rather, the state had been offered at the time of the Balfour Declaration, and then withdrawn and reneged upon by the same perfidious British as I mentioned at the beginning. The gates of Israel were closed precisely at the time when they were needed to remain open the most – during the years preceding and during the Holocaust.
Now that we have our independent state, Israel has been offering peace, withdrawals and concessions for nearly 25 years, and while peace was achieved with Egypt and Jordan, the Palestinians have been dishonest negotiators at best.
I would suggest to Bahloul that instead of terrorism, the Palestinians lay down their arms and start to negotiate in honesty and integrity with the Israelis. He would be amazed what could be achieved. Of course, educating the Palestinian public to accept Israel as a Jewish country, and cease the incessant brainwashing and incitement of the next generation to hate, despise and murder Jews, is a vital prerequisite for any progress in peace talks.
Likud MK Avi Dichter, who was Bahloul’s guest at the Saturday cultural event, said Bahloul’s comments on the stabber not being a terrorist legitimize terrorism. “You wouldn’t dare say such a thing if you were a member of the Egyptian parliament or in Ramallah,” charged Dichter, sitting on stage alongside Bahloul. It was “dangerous” to clam that an attack, say, “in which a soldier is slashed in the central station in Afula when he is waiting to board a bus, is not a terror attack,” said Dichter.
Bahloul took his statements overboard when he appeared to deny his own connection to Israel:
Dichter said that he was surprised to hear a fellow Knesset member describe Israel as “your country.” Bahloul again shot back: “This is the Jews’ country and not the Arabs’ country.”
This is a strange and worrying statement. Yes, Israel is the Jewish State, but since there is a 20% Arab population at the very least, and since Arabs are counted amongst the top tiers of the political echelons (see Bahloul himself as an example), in the judicial system, in the IDF, in academia, medicine, the arts, in education … the list goes on … how can Bahloul make such a claim in all honesty?
And if that is how he feels, what on earth is he doing in the Knesset, the very seat of Jewish power and sovereignty?
Moreover, how is the Zionist Union party tolerating a member with such a divisive attitude, who seems to refute the Jewish and Zionist character of Israel?