Imagine if a Canadian MP went to a conference in Europe and urged the world to boycott and sanction Canada. Imagine if that same MP spewed out libelous lies about the country he represents and questioned its very legitimacy in front of the international media. Would that MP survive another day in Parliament?
According to Canadian law, all it takes to eject an MP is “any conduct unbecoming the character of a member.” If treasonous behaviour is not “unbecoming,” I don’t know what is.
But that’s precisely what Israel got from one of its citizens and members of Knesset last week at the World Social Forum in Montreal, where Joint List MK Basel Ghattas, an Israeli-Arab citizen, went on a rampage against the country he’s supposed to represent.
He didn’t settle for the usual condemnations we hear about the Israeli “occupation” of the West Bank. No, Ghattas made it clear he considered all of Israel to be occupied territory and worthy of boycotts and sanctions.
As JPost reported, he called all of Israel “settler colonialism” and an “apartheid regime.”
“When we say colonial settlers… this is the right description for Israel as a whole, Israel dominating what was called Israel in the 1967 borders and all the other areas that were in the 1967 war occupied by Israel. We, as Palestinian citizens that have Israeli citizenship after 1948, are still victims of this colonial settler regime,” he said.
Ghattas also said that when it comes to the “apartheid regime, the differentiation as if inside 1967 borders [or out] – this differentiation does not exist.”
In other words, according to him, all of Israel is illegitimate. Remember: this isn’t coming from an anti-Israel activist – it’s coming from an Israeli citizen and MK.
An innocent reader would never guess that Arabs living in Israel are actually the freest and safest Arabs in the Middle East, enjoying freedom of speech, freedom of religion, civil rights and economic and educational opportunities. While 350 million Arabs live under mostly miserable and violent oppression throughout the region, Israeli Arabs, with all of their challenges, are still graduating from Israeli medical schools, serving on the Supreme Court, running their free press and opening their own companies under equal protection of the law.
Jews who lived in Arab countries for centuries, like my ancestors in Morocco, could only dream of such rights and freedoms. We survived because we accepted our status as dhimmis, or second-class citizens. God forbid we’d criticize our country as Israeli-Arabs routinely criticize Israel.
But freedom to criticize doesn’t mean freedom to incite against your country. Ghattas’ calumny in Montreal is only the latest in a long list of incendiary behaviour by Israeli-Arab MKs. Over the years, among other things, Arab MKs have met with terrorist groups such as Hamas and visited the homes of Palestinian terrorists with Jewish blood on their hands. One MK, Hanin Zoabi, even participated with a terrorist group in the Gaza flotilla of 2010 and later called the Israelis who defended themselves in that attack “murderers.”
Last month, the Knesset said “enough.” But unlike Canada, which only requires “conduct unbecoming” to justify expelling an MP, a new Israeli law makes it somewhat more difficult and specific, allowing a lawmaker to be ousted “for incitement to racism and support of armed struggle against the state.”
Further, expulsion requires a majority of 90 lawmakers, and to launch proceedings, 70 of the Knesset’s 120 members must agree, including 10 opposition MKs.
Hailing the legislation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it “puts an end to the absurdity: Those who support terrorism against the State of Israel and its citizens won’t serve in Israel’s Knesset.”
Of course, because this is Israel, Arab parties said they intend to file an appeal with Israel’s Supreme Court.
Montreal-born David Suissa is president of Tribe Media in Los Angeles and writes a weekly column in the L.A. Jewish Journal.