Of all the damage done by the botched takeover of the Mavi Marmara, one aspect is particularly serious: the further erosion of the relationship between the State of Israel and its Arab citizens, and between Jews and Arabs in Israel in general.
While decisions were made concerning the flotilla to Gaza, the prime minister, his ministers and his spokesmen knew that on board the Mavi Marmara were a number of Arab Israeli public figures, including a Knesset member and a political-religious leader. However, they took no particular precautions. Apparently, no voice of reason was heard, asking that MK Hanin Zuabi and Sheikh Ra'ad Salah not be turned into heroes. But the intimidation and incitement against them were even more egregious.
Even sworn opponents of Zuabi and her political path should be deeply concerned by Interior Minister Eli Yishai's proposal to revoke her citizenship and by the formulation of a bill demanding her expulsion from the legislature. The very wording of the bill - calling for "ousting a sitting Knesset member if the member was involved in the action of an enemy country or in incitement against the State of Israel" - shows ignorance with regard to the limits of protest in a democracy (Turkey is not an enemy country; political critique is not incitement ) and, at worst, reflects a trend aimed specifically at silencing Arabs.
This trend is surfacing in most of the parties in the Knesset, with the enthusiastic encouragement of most ministers, above all Yishai, who continually lashes out against Arabs. Some of the unrestrained statements by lawmakers on the right and the center and their distorted initiatives - such as the attempt to deny pensions to Arab MKs who are seen as "betraying the state," even if they were not tried - are enough to persuade one that the flotilla debacle served those people as a pretext to ratchet up the delegitimization of Israel's Arab citizens and brand them as traitors.
Avigdor Lieberman is not alone: His work, of inciting against Israel's Arab community, is now being done by many of the MKs who signed the "Zuabi bill." In addition to the dubious loyalty legislation that has been proposed, this instance of incitement brings Israel to an unprecedented low. Arab citizens may be the direct victims of government policy and the atmosphere in the Knesset, but all of society will pay the price of the devastation that will result.
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