Sami Abu Shehadeh, head of the Arab Israeli ‘Balad’ party, said in an interview to Kan News on Sunday that he wants to see the elimination of the Israeli flag, the national anthem, the Law of Return and Jewish statehood in general.
“We need a serious change in the racist structure that discriminates in favor of Jews, and to build a better democratic model,” Shehadeh said.
The Member of Knesset was then asked about the terrorist shooting of a bus on Saturday night in which at least eight bullet holes were found on the bus’s windows and body. Miraculously, no one in the full bus was wounded. The shots were fired from the Palestinian town of Silwad.
The MK chose not to answer the question, refusing to condemn the terrorist attack.
“There are a lot of ‘sacrifices’ and the way to stop the violence is to end the ‘occupation’,” Shehadeh said.
He was asked what could be done in the meantime.
“There needs to be a project to end the ‘occupation’ and the Jewish supremacy and the end of racism,” the MK said.
“But what do you think of those who shot at the bus?” the host challenged.
“I understand what you are doing,” the Arab MK said. “You are trying to take it out of context. It did not begin yesterday. This misdirects the public and creates illusions…We never called for violence and object to violence. But this is not what happened yesterday. We believe that what leads to violence is ‘the occupation.’ ‘The occupation’ is by definition ongoing terrorism.”
‘The occupation’ is a term used to describe Israel, usually used to describe the Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria that began after the defensive Six-Day War in 1967 though also used to describe the Jewish state declared by the United Nations in 1947 and defended in the 1948 War of Independence.
Judea and Samaria were originally intended by the United Nations partition plan to be a Palestinian state but those areas were captured by Jordan and annexed in a move that was considered by most of the world to be an illegal occupation. In 1988, after Israel conquered the territory, Jordan renounced any ties to the regions.
The Levy Report in 2012 established that Israel’s presence in the West Bank is not an occupation and that the Israeli settlements are legal under international law. The committee of former supreme court justices concluded that the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention against the transfer of foreign populations to conquered territory is not applicable to the Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank, concluding: “Israelis have the legal right to settle in Judea and Samaria and the establishment of settlements cannot, in and of itself, be considered illegal”.
In response, Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman pointed out in a statement via Twitter that “despite his, and his party’s express support for terrorism and the fight against Israel, Supreme Court justices (and among them, Meni ‘I-didn’t-speak-about-a-specific-minister’ Mazuz) authorized him, again and again, to enter the Knesset.
“Contrary to the explicit Basic Law [that prohibits it]. So why would he condemn a shooting [attack] on a bus?” Rothman wrote.
In an interview with Israel’s Reshet Bet, Rothman also noted that Section 7-A of the Knesset’s Basic Law “means that he cannot be a member of Knesset.
“Whoever says he does not support the flag and the Law of Return and calls the Jewish state enterprise ‘racist’ does not want a Jewish State. Such an individual should not be imprisoned for it, but he cannot be a member of the Knesset.”
While claiming it is working towards turning Israel into a democratic state, Balad has been accused of supporting the creation of a Palestinian state inside the borders of Israel. In 2001, Balad’s leader, Azmi Bishara, gave a speech in Umm al Fahm supporting Syria and Hezbollah and he was charged and indicted for supporting terrorist organizations against Israel and siding with her enemies. The case against him was dismissed and the speech was ruled as protected under parliamentary immunity. Party leaders have been charged with activities in enemy countries and supporting terrorism but have never been charged. The party was excluded from the elections in 2009 on grounds that it does not recognize the State of Israel and calls for armed conflict against it. This was later overturned by the supreme court.
Abu Shehadeh was criticized for participating in an event last year celebrating the release of convicted terrorist Anis Saffouri, who was sentenced in 2009 to 14 years in prison for conspiring to murder Israeli Air Force pilots, soldiers, and scientists. Critics claimed his actions were in violation of section 24 of Israel’s 2016 Counter-Terrorism Law that criminalizes voicing praise and support for terrorism.