There are some injustices that Israel can do nothing about.
There is nothing it can do about the infuriating headlines in the international media that cast Palestinian terrorists as victims. When two border policewomen risked their lives last week to stop three armed terrorists in Yerushalayim — one of the women died and the other was wounded — and CBS headlined its story “3 Palestinians Killed as Daily Violence Grinds On,” the Foreign Ministry issued a meaningless protest.
And there is not much Israel can do about U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s refusal to meet with the parents of Hadar Goldin, Hy”d, one of the soldiers whose bodies was snatched by Hamas during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. The parents, who are pleading for the U.N. to help retrieve their son’s body (and that of IDF Sgt. Oron Shaul, Hy”d), especially considering that he was killed during a U.N.-mediated ceasefire that Hamas failed to honor, were not deemed worthy of an audience with Ban, whose office was just a few doors from the underlings who did meet them.
But there are some injustices that Israel can, and must, do something about. And that includes the solidarity visit last week by Israeli Arab Knesset members with families of terrorists who were killed in the act. Such outrageous behavior offends the sensibilities of Jewish victims of terror, encourages continued acts of “martyrdom” and outrages Israeli taxpayers who are forced to cover the generous salaries of those who faithfully represent their enemies.
Three members of Balad, part of the Arab Joint List, met with 10 families of terrorists last week, including that of Baha Alian, who was gunned down by security forces last October after killing three Israelis in Yerushalayim’s Armon Hanatziv. The MKs did not come to protest the killing of innocents, but the fact that Israel had not returned Alian’s body to his family.
His father described the meeting as “warm and productive,” adding that the MKs “listened to the suffering and pain of the shahids’ families” and promised to pressure the Israeli government to release the terrorists’ bodies, according to a translation by Palestinian Media Watch.
Not surprisingly, the families of terror victims were furious and pained by the visits. The son of 76-year-old Richard Lakin, a retired school principal who was murdered by Alian, called on the Knesset Speaker to remove the MKs’ immunity and enable them to be charged with incitement. “There most certainly should be an investigation against MKs who encourage and applaud a terrorist who murdered a retired school principal who dedicated his life to education and coexistence,” he said.
“It is important to understand that words are important, and when leaders and elected representatives of the Arab sector share in the grief and listen to the suffering of the families of the terrorists, and call the killer a ‘shahid’ (martyr), it may incite their constituents to carry out similar crimes.”
By this week, more than 450 complaints had been filed with the Knesset Ethics Committee against the three, from both the Left and the Right, including one by MK Anat Berko (Likud), who correctly noted that democracy is not a license to consort with the enemy. “I can’t imagine a possible parallel situation, in which members of the U.S. Congress visited the family of Muhammad Atta, who is responsible for the 9/11 attack,” she said. “Who do Balad members identify with? With the murderers of our people?”
But complaints and indignation are not enough. Legislation must be passed that enables the Knesset to rid itself of the likes of Haneen Zoabi, who was on the Mavi Marmara as terrorists attacked Israeli soldiers trying to prevent them from breaking the blockade on Gaza or Jamal Zahalka who defends holding a minute of silence in memory of terrorists. Currently, the stiffest disciplinary measure allowed by law is a six-month suspension from participating in Knesset debates, but not from voting.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu deserves credit for moving quickly to introduce a bill that would allow the Knesset to suspend an MK due to improper conduct. The suspension would come into effect if a special majority of 90 (out of the total 120 MKs) supported it.
The law, which still has to make it through three Knesset readings and the inevitable appeals to the High Court of Justice, is important for the families of the victims of terrorism and innocent people who may, chalilah, become victims of terror as a result of this kind of incitement and legitimization of murder.
But it is no less important for Israeli Arabs themselves, most of whom are law-abiding citizens who care more about bread-and-butter issues like education, housing and wages than about Palestinian nationalism. Their interests are harmed by the actions and statements of radical MKs who identify first and foremost with their Palestinian “brethren.”
As Nazareth Mayor Ali Salem said last October, “They are destroying our future, they are destroying coexistence…. We need to find a way to live together. We cannot fight like this. We are damaging ourselves.”
The prime minister and the Knesset must complete the job, despite Arab charges that such legislation is fascist and despite the criticism that will surely be leveled by Europe that it is anti-democratic. A law that ensures that Knesset members represent the country and not the enemy is the least a democracy must do to protect itself.