By Morton A. Klein, National President
Zionist Organization of America
This issue was highlighted in recent days when Israeli Arab MKs who have done these things, Azmi Bishara, Jamal Zahalka and Wasal Taha, all members of the Balad Party, undertook a trip to Syria, a country which refuses to recognize Israels right to exist.
Their Syrian visit contravenes a 2001 law that requires explicit government authorization (which the three Balad members did not seek or obtain) for visits to enemy states. Bishara has also undertaken several visits to Lebanon and also a previous visit to Syria in 2001, prior to the passage of the law banning such unauthorized visits. He was charged for a subsequent visit to Lebanon but the charge had to be dropped on a technicality that an amendment to the law has since rectified. However, no attempt has even been made to enforce the law on other occasions and MKs from other Arab factions, like Ahmad Tibi and Talab a-Sanaa, have also gone on similar forbidden trips without suffering any legal repercussions.
As a result of this most recent visit, the Israeli Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz has acceded to the request of the Interior Minister, Roni Bar-On, and announced that the three Balad MKs will be investigated for traveling to an enemy state without authorization . This is obviously the first of several necessary steps to deal with the long-neglected and serious problem of the disloyalty of Israel Arab Knesset members. What is needed as the next step is enforcement of the existing law banning such visits.
But even that is an insufficient response to the problem of disloyalty of Arab MKs. With or without traveling to hostile states, the three Balad MKs are guilty of taking public positions siding with Israels avowed enemies and encouraging sedition.
Azmi Bishara has praised Syria for its struggle to liberate occupied Arab land, its resistance against occupation and its defense of the legitimacy of such resistance (Jerusalem Post, September 12). He has stated that We are Syrias ally and supported its efforts to free occupied Arab land (Haaretz, September 10), condemned Israels barbaric onslaughts against Lebanon and urged Nasrallah to continue his fight (Jerusalem Post, September 12). Perhaps most serious of all, he w arned Syria of likely preemptive Israeli strikes (Jerusalem Post, September 12), something of which he might well have knowledge as a result of his presence in the Knesset.
Jamal Zahalka is also clear about his loyalties. For us Syria is no enemy … [we support] solidarity with Syria, especially after Israels savage aggression against Lebanon (Jerusalem Post, September 12). He has also said that We dont see Syria as an enemy state (Haaretz, September 10). Lastly, Wasal Taha recently revealed he had recommended that organizations hostile to Israel concentrate their efforts on attacking and abducting Israeli soldiers (Jerusalem Post, September 12).
It is simply intolerable that these MKs sit in the Knesset while recommending various acts aggression to Israels enemies and consorting with terrorists and the leaders of Arabs regime that harbor them. Imagine if a US congressman paid an unauthorized visit to North Korea, declared himself to be on North Koreas side and recommended action North Korea should take to inflict harm or disadvantage upon the United States. Such a congressman would be charged with treason or other serious crimes.
Knesset Member Zevulun Orlev (National Union — National Religious Party) has proposed a law at the end of the last Knesset session that would ban MKs from the Knesset who support or identify with a terror organization. MK Avigdor Lieberman (Israel Beiteinu) said that there was no difference between the visit of the three Balad MKs to Syria and an act of espionage against the Jewish state.
The Jerusalem Post has rightly editorialized, A countrys legal code is the glue which keeps its social fabric from fraying and tearing. When that code is contravened, the countrys resolve to uphold its sovereignty is tested. If it fails to implement and enforce its laws, it loses authority. Laws cannot apply only to one segment of the population. Such a situation broadcasts not broadmindedness and magnanimity but vacillation and weakness. It invites further breaches (Jerusalem Post, September 12).
It is necessary to put an end to the dangerous situation that Israel Arab MKs sit in the Knesset at taxpayer expense while rallying behind genocidal terrorist groups that murder Israeli citizens. For this reason, the 2001 law is no longer enough, even if it is rigorously enforced. Rigorous enforcement of this law will not prevent Azmi Bishara from praising Syrias support for Hizballahs aggression against Israel; or Jamal Zahalka deciding for himself that Syria is not an enemy; or Wasal Taha advising Palestinians to kidnap Israeli soldiers.
In this context, Zevulun Orlevs proposal for a law banning something which would be illegal in most democracies — identifying with foreign powers at war with ones country — should be seriously discussed and drafted. Israel is engaged in a long-term battle for its existence and simply cannot tolerate Israeli Arab MKs willing and able support enemy regimes and terrorist groups, whether they pay them visits or not.