All of Israel’s one million plus Palestinian residents … the survivors and descendants of the 1948 Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine – have long felt discriminated against, despite Israel paying lip-service to their democratic rights. They also felt on the sidelines of what was being played out in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, that is until Azmi Bishara, the outspoken political leader of the National Democratic Assembly (NDA) or Balad in Israel and a Knesset member, began campaigning for the collective rights of Palestinians. His vision is not just for change inside Israel, but involves an all-inclusive civil rights struggle against political Zionism – the racist and colonialist policies that have dispossessed, marginalised and oppressed all Palestinians for almost 60 years. This is what Israel is at pains to put down by any means. It cannot afford to have someone like Azmi Bishara rallying people to his way of thinking. Now, after many attempts to muzzle him, Israel has finally succeeded in getting him to resign from the Knesset and to stay out of the country.
A list of unpublished charges were drawn up against Bishara whilst he was abroad – charges so serious that they would likely have landed him in jail on his return. While the charges themselves are not known, it is not difficult to guess at what they involve. Bishara has been previously charged with undermining the “Jewish nature of the state”, but the charges have always been dropped. This time it seems that Israel’s state security services may have formulated charges that not only label Bishara a national security threat, but accuse him of treason and espionage. The media is not allowed to discuss any of it and even Bishara himself is reticent on the matter, no doubt to protect himself from being further arraigned because he is adamant that he will eventually return to Israel.
The creation of a Jewish state was certainly justified on moral grounds, but is the purity of Israel’s Jewish indentity so important to Israel that it is willing to succumb to fascism? Surely if the case for Israel’s Jewish indentity were so solid, such draconian measures would not be necessary.