More interview excerpts with Azmi Bishara from Al Jazeera

26 Apr

This is another post of an interview excerpt with Azmi Bishara by Al Jazeera published on its website on the 25th April. Azmi Bishara, the leader of Balad, who resigned from Israel’s parliament or Knesset in Cairo on the 22nd April, has been accused of “aiding enemies of the country during last year’s war against Hezbollah”. The interview is conducted by Jane Dutton in Qatar on Talk to Al Jazeera.

Excerpts of the interview:

Al Jazeera: You are being investigated by Israeli police for unpublished charges. You have been in this situation before. Do you think that, being an Arab member of the Knesset, you are being targeted?

Ans: Well, yes, I have been targeted. It is a reality now because, in the last few years, I was two times brought to court and this is the third investigation.

The first two times had to do with my political opinions. Once because I was not recognising the Jewish character of the state and calling for a state of its citizens.

The second time was for visiting an enemy country. They consider Syria and Lebanon as enemy countries. I was charged with that.

Al Jazeera: How do you balance your interests? You say that Syria and Lebanon, particularly Hezbollah, are not your enemy, but they are enemies of the Israeli state?

Ans: The Israeli state was established in 1948 on the ruins of the Palestinian people. Now if you want, in the language which will be known probably in Australia or America or even in South Africa, we are indigenous people, the natives of the place.

And Israel was built on our ruins. We did not immigrate to Israel in order to become Israelis like many French people would like the Algerians to integrate into France or to accept as equal citizens.

But these people immigrated to France and they chose to be French. We did not choose to be Israelis. Israel came to Palestine, destroyed Palestine and emerged from the ruins of Palestine.

We are Arab Palestinians. Israeli identity does not exist even according to Israel, they insist their identity is Jewish. There is no such thing as Israeli identity.

Our Israeli citizenship was forced upon us. Now we use it as a framework for work to demand for equality. But this does not amount to identification with the goals of the country in the region, which we do not accept. We are not Zionists and we do not consider Syria and Lebanon our enemies, on the contrary.

Qns: So you are advocating the destruction of Israel?

Of course not. We do not identify with everything that other organisations demand.

We live in the state of Israel and in the framework of such a regime and we think that Israel should be accepted if it accepts a just peace, which means a just settlement with the Palestinians to co-exist in justice and equality.

But we do not accept a kind of apartheid reality with the West Bank and Gaza and third- or fourth-class citizenship for the Arabs in Israel. We also do not accept Israel to be the policeman of the region. In that sense, yes we do identify, for example, with the victims of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza as victims of the occupation, Lebanon as a victim of Israeli aggression and we do not conceal this…

Al Jazeera: How do you find your working with other Israelis on the Knesset?

Ans: The Knesset is not the worst political culture in Israel. The street could be even more racist than the parliament. But in the parliament, I think Israel is democratic within the limits of being a Jewish state.

I would call it trivial democracy. It is a democracy for Jews, and Arabs are granted rights because they are a minority and because they can be endured.

What is amazing or what would be amazing for Westerners who think that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, is the media. It is totalitarian actually. There is one orchestrated incitement calling for ousting us etc, while in the Arab media there are different opinions.

Al Jazeera:You said that the Arabs are persecuted in Israel. Give us a sense if you will of the conditions in which they live?

Ans: First of all, not all Arabs are persecuted. If you are a loyal Arab or a good Arab as many Zionists would say, you are not persecuted of course. It depends on what the definition of a good Arab.

Al Jazeera: What makes a good Arab?

Ans: Accepting to be marginalised, accepting to be a second-class citizen and being pleased and thankful because you live better than in Gaza. You have to be grateful… …

Al Jazeera: How do the bad Arabs live then?

Ans: Well, the bad Arabs have to do with not accepting to be just tolerated. They have the pride of the indigenous people that this is their country and actually you are not doing them a favour that you are in the Knesset. Probably if you look at it from my side, I am doing them a favour that I am in the Knesset because this gives them legitimacy. And many Arabs blame us for being in the Knesset… …

Al Jazeera: Do you think that Israeli state is in a state of flux at the moment? Do you think what is happening in the Middle East at the moment will determine Israel’s future?

Ans: It could be. If Israel does not grab now and does not jump on the opportunity of the current Arab peace initiative, I think, they are going into catastrophe. Because at the end what will impose itself is the fact that this is an apartheid country. And the two state solution will fail because people will live in inequality and in the end people will not accept to be second-class citizens… …

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