Monday, June 08, 2009

Max Blumenthal interviews MK Ahmad Tibi, leader of the Raam-Tal party.


Alex Miller says his law banning public observance of the Nakbah will strengthen Israeli democracy by preventing attacks on the state. What do you think of his statement?

“The question is Israel a weak democracy? Yes, it is a weak democracy. Yisrael Beitaynu is the Israeli Jewish Fascist Party and it seems that Alex Miller and his party are not confident about the Israeli Jewish narrative of Zionism.”

“We are victims of Zionism and have a different story of events about 1948. How do you expect our people to celebrate their agony and disaster? These are basic human feelings to mourn destruction. I can understand that the Jewish people want to commemorate the Shoah. But to have Jewish victims of Nazi racism impose celebration on another’s tragedy is horrible.

Do these laws reflect a new mood among Jewish Israelis towards Palestinian citizens of Israel or this merely the release of years of pent-up resentment?

“This is an escalation and the flood of new laws (like the loyalty law) is continuing the path of the last Knesset which tried to ban Balad and other Arab parties. The ban on the Arab parties passed in committee but failed [in a full vote]. They are attacking us as not loyal after they tried to ban our parties in the government. What’s loyalty to Lieberman? To be Jewish and Zionist. They are willing to have Arabs in their country only if they are loyal to Zionism but we are victims of Zionism and I can’t accept imposing happiness.”

Are Netanyahu and the Likud leadership contributing to the rising public resentment against Arabs in Israel?

“Because of the mood of parts of the Israeli public and the Israeli media Likud members of Knesset like Benny Begin have been prevented from supporting these laws. But under Netanyahu there have been more laws like these and there will be more laws. Just last week there was a law that gave communities the right to set their own standards of who can live in the said community or not [in order to prevent anyone who isn’t a Jewish Zionist from living in them]. There is not enough rejection of these laws and they will keep coming”

As late as the 1960’s there were laws in towns throughout the United States called “Sundown Laws” which forbade African-Americans from entering towns after dark.

You mean in Mississippi?

No, a wealthy suburb of Washington DC called Montgomery County had these laws too.

We are in a situation similar to African-Americans before the 1950’s and 1960’s and blacks in South Africa before the end of apartheid. In Israel you have three systems of laws. One is democracy for eighty percent of the populations. It is democracy for Jews. I call it an ethnocracy or you could call it a Judocracy. The second is racial discrimination for twenty percent of the population, the Israeli Arabs. The third is apartheid for the population in the West Bank and Gaza. This includes two sets of governments, one for the Palestinians and one for the settlers. Inside Israel there is not yet apartheid but we are being pushed there with these laws.

Do you believe Israel will ultimately fulfill the direction you say it’s going in, by becoming an apartheid state?

There is a deepening of discrimination towards Arabs in Israel that we have not seen in the past. One of the laws in the Knesset would jail anyone for one year who did not recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The problem is that they (the Israeli government and population) are dealing with us (Israeli Arabs) like enemies and not as citizens. So racism is not allowed in the Western world except when it is Israeli racism towards Arabs. This has a lot to do with history. We have become the victims of the victims.

Do you have hope for coexistence in Israel?

“I want co citizenship. I want to be equal citizens and not just live with coexistence. It is hard to have co-existence when one side is the rider and the other side is the horse. Right now I would say Israel is a Jewish democracy. It is democratic towards Jews and Jewish towards the Arabs.”

Obama has said he will be “honest” with Israel and may apply pressure to exact a peaceful solution to the conflict. When Obama speaks in Cairo on Thursday, what should he say to Israel?

We are in a phase where Israel is no longer the preferred child of the international community. This White House has contributed to this in what it has said but we see no evidence on the ground. It is very important that Obama will mention the absence of equality for Arab citizens to Israel. Why are we so neglected by this [Obama] administration? I know why. Because we are minorities inside Israel, the world is afraid to upset Israel, and we are paying the price.


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