Posted by: Lister | May 4, 2007

Azmi Bishara in the LA times

Bishara is in self-exile from Israel, having resigned as a member of the Knesset. He is accused of treason, a charge he denies.

For the first 18 years of Israeli statehood, we, as Israeli citizens, lived under military rule with pass laws that controlled our every movement. We watched Jewish Israeli towns spring up over destroyed Palestinian villages.

Today we make up 20% of Israel’s population. We do not drink at separate water fountains or sit at the back of the bus. We vote and can serve in the parliament. But we face legal, institutional and informal discrimination in all spheres of life.

More than 20 Israeli laws explicitly privilege Jews over non-Jews. The Law of Return, for example, grants automatic citizenship to Jews from anywhere in the world. Yet Palestinian refugees are denied the right to return to the country they were forced to leave in 1948. The Basic Law of Human Dignity and Liberty — Israel’s “Bill of Rights” — defines the state as “Jewish” rather than a state for all its citizens. Thus Israel is more for Jews living in Los Angeles or Paris than it is for native Palestinians.

[…] I have certainly ruffled feathers in Israel. In addition to speaking out on the subjects above, I have also asserted the right of the Lebanese people, and of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, to resist Israel’s illegal military occupation. I do not see those who fight for freedom as my enemies.

This may discomfort Jewish Israelis, but they cannot deny us our history and identity any more than we can negate the ties that bind them to world Jewry. After all, it is not we, but Israeli Jews who immigrated to this land. Immigrants might be asked to give up their former identity in exchange for equal citizenship, but we are not immigrants.

[…] Last year, Cabinet member Avigdor Lieberman — an immigrant from Moldova — declared that Palestinian citizens of Israel “have no place here,” that we should “take our bundles and get lost.” After I met with a leader of the Palestinian Authority from Hamas, Lieberman called for my execution.

The Israeli authorities are trying to intimidate not just me but all Palestinian citizens of Israel. But we will not be intimidated. We will not bow to permanent servitude in the land of our ancestors or to being severed from our natural connections to the Arab world. Our community leaders joined together recently to issue a blueprint for a state free of ethnic and religious discrimination in all spheres. If we turn back from our path to freedom now, we will consign future generations to the discrimination we have faced for six decades.

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