New York – Israeli Arab Members of Knesset (MKs), Azmi Bishara, Jamal Zahalka and Wasal Taha, all members of the Balad Party, have urged the leader of the Islamist terrorist group Hizballah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, to fight Israel, voiced solidarity with Syria’s war against Israel and supported the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers. The three Arab MKs paid a visit to Syria this past weekend, contrary to a 2001 law banning visits to enemy states without explicit government authorization. Bishara has also undertaken several visits to Lebanon also a previous visit to Syria in 2001, prior to the passage of the law banning such visits without government permission. MKs from other Arab factions, like Ahmad Tibi and Talab a-Sanaa, have likewise gone on similar forbidden trips without repercussions.
Israeli Attorney-General Menahem 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 . Syria does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, refused past offers of peace from Israel and has armed and helped maintain the Lebanese Islamist terrorist group, Hizballah, whose leadership have called for Israel ‘s destruction and the murder of Jews. 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 (Jerusalem Post, September 12). 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 (Haaretz, September 10).
The Jerusalem Post editorialized, “A country’s legal code is the glue which keeps its social fabric from fraying and tearing. When that code is contravened, the country’s 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).
Disloyal statements by Israeli Arab MKs:
- 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).
- “We are Syria’s ally” and supported its efforts to free “occupied Arab land” (Haaretz, September 10)
- Condemned “Israel’s barbaric onslaughts” against Lebanon and urged Nasrallah to “continue his fight” (Jerusalem Post, September 12).
- Warned Syria of likely “preemptive Israeli strikes” (Jerusalem Post, September 12).
- “For us Syria is no enemy … [we support] solidarity with Syria, especially after Israel’s savage aggression against Lebanon” (Jerusalem Post, September 12).
- “We don’t see Syria as an enemy state” (Haaretz, September 10).
- Recently revealed he had recommended that organizations hostile to Israel “concentrate their efforts on attacking and abducting Israeli soldiers” (Jerusalem Post, September 12).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “We support the Israeli government for undertaking the first of several necessary steps to deal with the long-neglected and serious problem of the disloyalty of Israel Arab Knesset members by launching an investigation into the recent trip to Syria and horrific statements made by the three Arab MKs. At the same time, an investigation is by itself clearly insufficient. Azmi Bishara, for example, has been previously investigated for an illegal trip to Lebanon, but no charges were forthcoming even though he had clearly violated the law by traveling to an enemy state without explicit government authorization. What is needed as the next step is enforcement of the existing law.
“By failing to enforce the law, the Israeli Arab minority is effectively being invited to be disloyal to Israel. 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 Syria’s support for Hizballah’s aggression against Israel; or Jamal Zahalka deciding for himself that Syria is not an enemy; or Wasal Taha advising Palestinians to kidnap Israeli soldiers. These acts and statements are simply treasonous. Imagine is a US congressman visited North Korea and stated openly that he was an ally of North Korea. Such a congressman would immediately face charges of treason on his return. In this context, Zevulun Orlev’s proposal for a law banning something which would be illegal in most democracies — identifying with foreign powers at war with one’s 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.”