[I remain a skeptic whenever Israel or the Bush administration jails someone claiming that he/she is an enemy — and yet fails to prosecute or disclose sources of the charges on the basis that such disclosure would jeopardize security.  I first heard this argument at the Columbia University Faculty Human Right Seminar some decades ago from an Israeli legal authority who claimed that Israel was holding less than a handful of detainees under the rubric of “preventive detention” laws with the security justification just mentioned.  I have just signed an ACLU petition defending Habeas Corpus which is currently being violated here in the U.S.


(I was for several decades a member of the ACLU Church/State advisory committee).

Lest both the Bush administration and Israelis forget, this practice was instituted by (among others pretending to subscribe to the rule of law) South Africa under Apartheid.  Ed Kent]



By Azmi Bishara, The Electronic Intifada, 3 May 2007


I am a Palestinian from Nazareth, a citizen of Israel and
was, until last month, a member of the Israeli parliament.

But now, in an ironic twist reminiscent of France’s
Dreyfus affair — in which a French Jew was accused of
disloyalty to the state — the government of Israel is
accusing me of aiding the enemy during Israel’s failed war
against Lebanon in July.

Israeli police apparently suspect me of passing
information to a foreign agent and of receiving money in
return. Under Israeli law, anyone — a journalist or a
personal friend — can be defined as a “foreign agent” by
the Israeli security apparatus. Such charges can lead to
life imprisonment or even the death penalty.

The allegations are ridiculous. Needless to say, Hezbollah
— Israel’s enemy in Lebanon — has independently gathered
more security information about Israel than any Arab
Knesset member could possibly provide. What’s more, unlike
those in Israel’s parliament who have been involved in
acts of violence, I have never used violence or
participated in wars. My instruments of persuasion, in
contrast, are simply words in books, articles and

These trumped-up charges, which I firmly reject and deny,
are only the latest in a series of attempts to silence me
and others involved in the struggle of the Palestinian
Arab citizens of Israel to live in a state of all its
citizens, not one that grants rights and privileges to
Jews that it denies to non-Jews.

When Israel was established in 1948, more than 700,000
Palestinians were expelled or fled in fear. My family was
among the minority that escaped that fate, remaining
instead on the land where we had long lived. The Israeli
state, established exclusively for Jews, embarked
immediately on transforming us into foreigners in our own

For the first 18 years of Israeli statehood, we, as
Israeli citizens, lived under military rule with pass laws
that controlled our every movement. We watched Jewish
Israeli towns spring up over destroyed Palestinian

Today we make up 20 percent of Israel’s population. We do
not drink at separate water fountains or sit at the back
of the bus. We vote and can serve in the parliament. But
we face legal, institutional and informal discrimination
in all spheres of life.

More than 20 Israeli laws explicitly privilege Jews over
non-Jews. The Law of Return, for example, grants automatic
citizenship to Jews from anywhere in the world. Yet
Palestinian refugees are denied the right to return to the
country they were forced to leave in 1948. The Basic Law
of Human Dignity and Liberty — Israel’s “Bill of Rights”
— defines the state as “Jewish” rather than a state for
all its citizens. Thus Israel is more for Jews living in
Los Angeles or Paris than it is for native Palestinians.

Israel acknowledges itself to be a state of one particular
religious group. Anyone committed to democracy will
readily admit that equal citizenship cannot exist under
such conditions.

Most of our children attend schools that are separate but
unequal. According to recent polls, two-thirds of Israeli
Jews would refuse to live next to an Arab and nearly half
would not allow a Palestinian into their home.

I have certainly ruffled feathers in Israel. In addition
to speaking out on the subjects above, I have also
asserted the right of the Lebanese people, and of
Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, to resist
Israel’s illegal military occupation. I do not see those
who fight for freedom as my enemies.

This may discomfort Jewish Israelis, but they cannot deny
us our history and identity any more than we can negate
the ties that bind them to world Jewry. After all, it is
not we, but Israeli Jews who immigrated to this land.
Immigrants might be asked to give up their former identity
in exchange for equal citizenship, but we are not

During my years in the Knesset, the attorney general
indicted me for voicing my political opinions (the charges
were dropped), lobbied to have my parliamentary immunity
revoked and sought unsuccessfully to disqualify my
political party from participating in elections — all
because I believe Israel should be a state for all its
citizens and because I have spoken out against Israeli
military occupation. Last year, Cabinet member Avigdor
Lieberman — an immigrant from Moldova — declared that
Palestinian citizens of Israel “have no place here,” that
we should “take our bundles and get lost.” After I met
with a leader of the Palestinian Authority from Hamas,
Lieberman called for my execution.

The Israeli authorities are trying to intimidate not just
me but all Palestinian citizens of Israel. But we will not
be intimidated. We will not bow to permanent servitude in
the land of our ancestors or to being severed from our
natural connections to the Arab world. Our community
leaders joined together recently to issue a blueprint for
a state free of ethnic and religious discrimination in all
spheres. If we turn back from our path to freedom now, we
will consign future generations to the discrimination we
have faced for six decades.

Americans know from their own history of institutional
discrimination the tactics that have been used against
civil rights leaders. These include telephone bugging,
police surveillance, political delegitimization and
criminalization of dissent through false accusations.
Israel is continuing to use these tactics at a time when
the world no longer tolerates such practices as compatible
with democracy.

Why then does the U.S. government continue to fully
support a country whose very identity and institutions are
based on ethnic and religious discrimination that
victimize its own citizens?

Azmi Bishara was a member of the Knesset until his
resignation in April.

This article was originally published by the Los Angeles
Times and is republished with the author’s permission.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent  718-951-5324 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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