MK Mohammed Barakeh, chairman of the Hadash party and a resident of Shfaram, participated on Monday in a demonstration in Haifa demanding that the government "stop persecuting Arabs."
MK Barakeh, do you really believe there is a fascist regime in this country, as you said at the demonstration?
"In the past, we shouted at demonstrations: 'Fascism will not get through.' But now, apparently, it is here at the door. A web of laws has been passed in the Knesset in recent years that don't fit any democratic criterion. There is an assault on the Arab minority, as well as on its leadership and its media. Anywhere else in the world, they would have passed laws to punish war criminals. The only place where they are now thinking about a law to punish people who expose war crimes is Israel - and I am referring to the Anat Kamm case."
If there were a fascist regime here or anything resembling one, you wouldn't be in the Knesset, but in prison.
"When I talk about fascism, it's not only the Arab minority's freedom of speech, it's the fact that the economy is in the hands of 20 families and the fact that the social gaps are growing. Therefore, to try to reduce this whole matter to a question of Jews against Arabs - that's not what it's about."
Nevertheless, even if the situation is not good, what's the connection to fascism? This is a slogan you use very freely.
"Racism has become more sophisticated over the years. It doesn't have to be exactly according to Mussolini's criteria. What is really outrageous is the silence of the lambs. People who consider themselves enlightened and democratic, disciples of human rights - they are remaining silent. They are letting it all happen. We've already been through this drama of 'I didn't see, I didn't hear,' until people wake up to an unpleasant reality. Today we are marching down a dark tunnel and there is no light at the end. There is no horizon of peace, there is no horizon of equality and there is no horizon of democracy."
When you talk about a reality of 'I didn't see, I didn't hear,' to what reality are you referring?
"There were all kinds of attempts in the last century. The last of them was apartheid in South Africa, but then people abroad rose against it and brought about the end of the regime. I hope the Israeli public will understand that this isn't just the Arabs' fight. The Arabs have always suffered from dispossession and a military regime. But this path endangers every citizen. And if someone like Jack Teitel, who harmed both Arabs and Jews, is found unfit to stand trial and absolved of all responsibility, the conclusion is that the Israeli prosecution is incapable of securing justice."
It seemed to me you were referring to the Nazi period. Then, too, they were silent.
"That analogy is incorrect, and it is not useful. If there is anyone who needs to rebel against signs of racism, it is those who were victims of racism in its darkest form. Today, I am going to speak at the [Knesset] debate marking the anniversary of the victory over Nazism, and yesterday, members of our party organized an event to mark that victory. I am loyal to the fight against fascism in all its forms."
You chose to make those accusations against the State of Israel at a demonstration connected to the arrest of two men suspected of espionage. It isn't certain that this helps them.
"The demonstration in Haifa was against the blanket of secrecy. They wrapped it around the whole issue and prevented them [the suspects] from seeing their lawyers. The investigation will continue, and in the end the truth will become clear. I hope a quarter of the coverage given to the emergence of the case will also be given to the revelation of the truth. Experience has already taught us how investigations begin and how they end, with half a line on the back page. I remember Alik Ron, the commander of the Northern District Police, once talked about a big investigation that was about to be opened against an Arab Knesset member over a serious incident. He was referring to me. Thanks to Alik Ron, I was accorded lead headlines in major newspapers. And in the end, the case was closed."
Do you perceive Yisrael Beiteinu's fingerprints on what you call a hunt for the Arab leadership?
"Yisrael Beiteinu controls all the nodes of the rule of law, and I fear some of the agenda taking control of this system is Yisrael Beiteinu's agenda. How is it possible that in an interview in Tokyo, [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman said there is more than conclusive evidence in the case of [espionage suspects Ameer] Makhoul and [Omar] Sayid? What does he know that the general public doesn't know? Apparently, his emissaries are doing his work."
Are you 100 percent convinced the two are innocent?
"With respect to the charge of espionage, I am 100 percent certain. What information do they have access to for spying? What do they know? We get our information from Google. What secret information are we sitting on that we could leak? Who among us has access to secret information? It could be that at some international conference, they met someone who is defined as a member of a hostile organization - which a year from now won't be hostile - and conversed with him. What do they expect from us: that we should go around with a list of supposedly hostile organizations compiled by the Shin Bet security service in our pockets?"
Will you continue to demonstrate for Makhoul and Sayid?
"We are demonstrating over the collective slander. An Arab doesn't commit a crime alone, but rather in the name of the Arab nation. This is plainly an attempt to isolate and exclude the Arab population from any circle of legitimacy. Anat Kamm is under house arrest, even though the store of information she had in her possession is immeasurably greater than anything Makhoul could have known, or even that I could have known as a Knesset member."
The defense establishment says Hezbollah is trying to recruit Israelis to its service. Do you know about this?
"This is part of a campaign aimed at bolstering the accusations. Incidentally, if Hezbollah has had successes in recruiting, they have in fact been among Israeli officers. The two people who are now under arrest aren't little children; they would not act stupidly and get into trouble over things like that. A person like Omar Sayid, who owns a tremendously rich company, isn't going to play games like that, nor would Makhoul, who is a prominent public figure."
You said similar things about [former Balad MK] Azmi Bishara in the past. Yet he apparently has a lot to hide. Otherwise, he would return to Israel.
"Bishara's story was also blown out of proportion, and the accusations against him were exaggerated. I urged him at the time to deal with it - to stand here and face those accusations. He chose what he chose."
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