|Haneen Zoabi (L) and Basel Ghattas (R), |
Arab members of Israel's parliament, both
participated in flotillas attempting to break
Israel's legal naval blockade of the Gaza strip.
03 July '15..
Once again, it is time to remind the representatives of the Arab citizens of Israel in the Knesset (parliament) who their real constituents are.
It is time to remind these representatives that they were elected by Arab citizens of Israel, and not by Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The reason why the Arab Knesset members need to be reminded of who their real constituents are is because some of them seem to have forgotten that the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have their own leaders, spokesmen and representatives.
In recent years, some of the Arab Knesset members have devoted much of their time and efforts to helping the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, at the expense of their own constituents in Israel.
The actions and rhetoric of some of the Arab Knesset members have also caused huge damage to relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel. The biggest losers are the Israeli Arabs, whose representatives in the Knesset have done little to improve their living conditions.
Arab Knesset member Basel Ghattas of the Joint List is the latest example of how the Arab representatives continue to act against the interests of their real constituents, the Israeli Arabs.
In late June, Ghattas left Israel to join another Gaza-bound flotilla that set sail from Greece.
He is the second Arab Knesset member to join such a mission. Five years ago, another Knesset member, Haneen Zoabi, joined the Mavi Marmara flotilla, whose goal was to "break the blockade" of the Gaza Strip.
The main goal of the organizers of the flotillas is to force Israel to lift the naval blockade, which is legal under international law and approved by the United Nations, and is intended to prevent the smuggling of weapons into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The flotilla organizers are trying to help Hamas rid itself of the state of isolation it has gotten itself into ever since it forced the Palestinian Authority's Fatah out of the Gaza Strip to seize control of it, in the summer of 2007.
Both Ghattas and Zoabi were prepared to risk their lives in order to help Hamas, whose leaders feel emboldened by the support that the Islamist movement is receiving from Knesset members and "pro-Palestinian" activists in various parts of the world. Fortunately for the two Knesset members, they were unhurt when Israeli army commandos intercepted their vessels both five years ago and this week.
Would the two Knesset members be willing to risk their lives to help those who voted for them? How does joining a flotilla mission to the Gaza Strip solve any of the problems facing Arab Israelis, such as unemployment and poverty?
It was hard this week to find Arab Israelis who saw anything positive in Ghattas's decision to sail aboard a ship to the Gaza Strip. In fact, many did not hesitate privately to criticize the decision. They noted that it would do nothing to improve their living conditions. However, most of the critics were afraid to go on the record because they feared accusations of being "traitors" for speaking out against one of their representatives in the Knesset.
Unfortunately, Ghattas and Zoabi are not the only Arab Knesset members who continue to devote much of their time and efforts to serving as advocates for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Of course, there is nothing wrong with expressing solidarity with the Palestinians living there. But some of the Arab Knesset members have clearly crossed red lines by betraying the interests of Arab Israelis. Surely, identifying with the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip does not serve any of the interests of the Arabs in Israel.
Ghattas and his friends in the Knesset, who have become spokespersons for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, are further widening the gap between Jews and Arabs in Israel. They are responsible for the fact that many Israeli Jews are today convinced that the Arab Israelis are a fifth column and an enemy from within.
The fiery anti-Israel rhetoric and actions of some Arab Knesset members has scared many Israeli Jews to a point where some of them have stopped visiting Arab towns in Israel.
Ghattas's decision to join the Gaza-bound flotilla is an act of provocation against Israel. It is also a betrayal of the interests of the Arab voters who sent him to the Knesset to fight for more public funds and services to the Arab sector in Israel. Provoking the Israeli public with such actions is the last thing the Arab Israelis want.
Some would argue that Ghattas and his friends in the Knesset are only seeking publicity through their provocative rhetoric and actions. According to this view, these Arab Knesset members are just seeking media attention and they do not care what is written about them as long as their names are spelled correctly.
Others would argue that they are engaged in such provocations because they really care about their Palestinian brethren living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In both cases, the Arab citizens of Israel are the biggest losers. Joining a pro-Hamas flotilla is not going to ensure jobs for Arab university graduates or bring more public funds to the Arab sector. It is time for Arab Israelis to endorse a new approach toward their state -- one different from that displayed by Ghattas and his friends. The new approach should be based on reaching out to their fellow Jewish citizens with a message of tolerance and coexistence, and not provocation and alienation.
It is time for Arab Israelis to distance themselves from those representatives who are acting against their interests and damaging relations between Jews and Arabs. If there are some Knesset members who wish to devote their time and energy to helping the Palestinians, they should consider moving to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But if they want to stay in Israel, they need to start addressing the problems facing their constituents and refrain from causing further damage to Arab-Jewish relations.
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