Azmi Bishara: Attack on my House was a Racist Act
Arab member of Israel’s Knesset Azmi Bishara stressed that the attack on his house, and the attempt to burn it Saturday night, was orchestrated by the Israeli government and the secret services.
In a telephone interview with Albawaba.com Sunday, Bishara said the attack came in an atmosphere of provocation and racism promoted by the Israeli official apparatus against the Arab inside Israel.
The Mk charged that the Israeli police interference to stop the attack was limited, and it was the Arab citizens who stood in the face of the extremists and blocked their way to his residence.
Following is the full the text of the interview:
Q: You are accused of urging Israeli-Arabs to undertake hostile acts against the state of Israel and it is obvious that you have a political role in Palestine as a MK. Was there an attack on your residence?
A: Some 300 organized extremists attempted to attack my house last night. They had declared their intentions on the radio. They approached the house and threw stones and they had torches, which they were going to use to burn the house. There were a few members of the security forces who tried to disperse the crowds but they didn’t attempt to arrest any of extremists. No one was injured. Imagine if those crowds were Arabs attacking an Israeli MK, what do you think would happen to them? They would most probably be killed. This is clear racism. Last week, I was targeted by an Israeli inspired campaign. The campaign was conducted against me through the media and the fact that I was suspected to be the cause of the clashes was deliberately leaked by the Israeli secret agency. It was natural that they behaved in this way in light of the current situation that is leading to war. For the (present) conditions resemble that of a war. They are trying to dampen down all opposition voices because of what they see as a national emergency. However, there have been many cases of actions against Arabs. Shops owned by Arabs and a deserted mosque have, for example, been burnt. There is clearly an atmosphere of discrimination against Arabs. We are terrified to do anything in our own land. We believe that this is due to a desire by the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to declare a war against Palestinians in order to impose his unfair conditions on the equally unfair Israeli-Palestinian settlement.
Q: Do you have any sort of protection?
A. No there is no protection at all, but there are thousands of Arab men who are more then willing to surround the house and offer protection. We have not chosen the organized path to protect ourselves yet, but solidarity is great over here.
Q: Who, do you think, is behind this hostile campaign, the security authorities or the government?
A. It was an official campaign, that was clear. It started on Israeli television at a high level , senior officials in the secret agency, and then it expanded into the written media. Such officials are provoked by national democratic groups and so it blames them for the escalation.
They say that the group is trying to raise awareness regarding the Arab identity and also attempting to bring the Arabs out of the political margin into the main stream of politics regarding the Palestinian issue. They are also accused of supporting Arab interests and trying to discriminate against Israelis. This, throughout the four years of the existence of the National Group, proved to be a source of concern to the Israelis.
More than that, for during the past four days, and during confrontation with national Israeli security forces, the group was seen to be behind everything and they were shouting and inciting people to be more violence. That, at least, this is what the secret agency says claiming that they also have photos to prove it. Ever since that, we were subjected to this hostile campaign.
Q: You are supposed to be a MK, doesn’t that mean that you are entitled to protection by the Israeli government?
A: That is true , I am entitled to protection , but I never asked for it. Because no MK is supposed to be subjected to such incidents. And to keep face they have sent two police cars one of which is said to be near my house now. I’m not home so I couldn’t tell. But as I said before, the Israeli police are unreliable, the police themselves are racist I was shot once in the shoulder some year and a half ago by the police, while I was protesting the destruction of a house . I do not trust the police, I will have to be careful.
Q: Have other Arab MK’s, such as Talab Al Sane’ and Hashim Mahamid, been subjected to similar threats or aggressions?
A: I think some received threats, we all were subjects of violent attacks while we were protecting crowds. But I have no knowledge of an organized attack like the one that happened to me when I was deliberately the target of a gunshot by the police in Lid city, or this latest attack on my house which is the first of its kind. But yes, Arab MK’s are targeted in demonstrations.
Q: There is a serious debate regarding the cause behind the outrage in the Arab towns behind the Green Line. Some say that the Arab citizen is of the third class, while others consider them Palestinians and not Israelis.
A: All of this debate is based on temporary mechanical stands. The situation is ambiguous due to the Arab attitudes regarding issues like class, and citizenship, and the Arab pursuit of equality. At the same time, they find themselves unable to stand there watching idly while their Palestinian brothers endure such horrible times without showing their support to them. They cannot stand helpless while the Israelis are trying to force the Palestinians to their knees by massacring them at Al Aqsa, Gaza and Nablus using helicopters and rockets.
The Israelis also cracked down on the Palestinians in Israel, deliberately killing eleven and injuring hundreds. There was even sniping from the roofs of buildings, which appeared like a new invasion of the land, rather than an ordinary operation to disperse a demonstration. There must have been a plan to assault the Arabs.
Q: In light of the threats by Israeli prime minister to use all the available force to stop the demonstrations, do you think he is serious about that, and how do you expect the 1948 Palestinians to react?
A: The Israeli threats must be taken seriously if resistance is to survive. We do not know for sure if Israel will use a bigger force in fighting civilians, but in practical terms, it is in a state of war with civilians. The new factor here is that the Israelis will wage war against the Palestinian Authority. But it should be clear to them that this will not lead to the surrender of the Arabs and Palestinians and they will not succumb to Israel’s conditions for a Peace settlement.
The Palestinian demands during the negotiations with Israel are the minimum of a relatively acceptable resolution for the conflict, and they must cling to them.
Q: What do expect the popular reaction of the 1948 Arabs will be?
A: We will wait and see where things are going. The Israeli prime minister directly threatened the Arab citizens. For us, we have to have our say and determine how to act under the circumstances, despite all the threats and discrimination.
Q: Is there coordination among the Arab political powers inside Israel?
A: We will soon call for a meeting for all Arab political powers inside Israel to discuss the issue. I cannot elaborate on that.
Q: What are your expectations regarding the situation on the Lebanese front, especially as regards the Syrian stand?
A: War is not a choice for Israel, and it will be forced to negotiate the issue of its soldiers kidnapped by Hizbollah. Israel cannot claim that Hizbollah has done what Israel has not. In fact, it has gone farther than kidnapping soldiers to kidnapping civilians from Lebanese territories. Israel has known since long that Hizbollah was planning such operations. Therefore Israel has to deal with the issue with objectivity, and it will not be in their interest to choose war.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)