Analysis

Removal of Arab Lawmakers During Pence's Speech: A Sad Moment for Israeli Democracy

The brutal removal of Arab MKs to the applause from the remaining lawmakers symbolizes the removal of 20 percent of the population living here from the circle of citizens

Joint List MKs protesting U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's speech being ejected from the Knesset, January 22, 2018.
Emil Salman

The choice is tough – asylum seekers, who are already hiding in attics, will be seen being taken away on deportation flights – but the expulsion from the Knesset plenum of Joint List MKs during U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's speech on Monday is surely a worthy candidate among the parade of the most repulsive and saddest images ever produced by the Middle East’s sole thriving democracy.

It's not only the disproportional assault by the Knesset Guard, as if someone from the Joint List had pulled out a submachine gun rather than a flimsy poster. Or what followed, when a fool like Likud MK Oren Hazan freely curses and defiles the Knesset with utterances like “I’ll kick you,” and “If you don’t have money for a flight, I’ll buy you a ticket we’ll throw you out of here” – which he yelled at MK Jamal Zahalka. It is mainly the smug faces, the sheer enjoyment flooding Benjamin Netanyahu and his clan of right-wing sycophants. It is the smiles of Zeev Elkin, Naftali Bennett and Gilad Erdan. It is the rousing applause in the hall.

What an achievement, what a pleasure: The Knesset is rid of Arabs.

Arab Israeli lawmakers escorted out of Pence speechHaaretz

This is the essence of Israel, its true face in the harsh sunlight of the Middle East. Joint List lawmakers get thrown out of the plenum because of a nonviolent and not especially rude protest. The audience’s enthusiasm is particularly sad. And the content of the protest signs is irrelevant. A parliament in a democratic state is exactly the place for things like stormy debates over controversial issues.

The brutal removal of Arab MKs to the sounds of applause from the remaining lawmakers symbolizes the removal of 20 percent of the population living here from the circle of citizens, to the cheers of the Jewish majority. It is the removal from within the family of human beings of people who deserve full rights, among them political rights and the right to protest.

These people should have the same rights as the evacuees from Gush Katif, who accused Ariel Sharon, the Shin Bet security service and the army of perpetrating a cruel expulsion and ethnic cleansing. They should have the same rights as the settlers evacuated from Amona, Haredi demonstrators in Jerusalem, supporters of the social protest and people demonstrating against Supreme Court.

Removal of Arab MKs from the Knesset plenum is also a symbol of the idea of segregation being brought out of the cellars of the capital into the light of the Knesset. Such a notion divides the population into people who are 100 percent human and those who are only 50 or 75 percent human, who should be happy to have a newly paved road in their village, a fixed sewage pipe or a refurbished health clinic. For people who are only 50 or 75 percent human must suffice with eating, drinking and sleeping. Having a political opinion – let alone expressing it – is a privilege reserved only for those who are 100 percent human – the Jews.

And that’s the parliament in the Middle East’s only democracy for you. An exemplary country, the light unto the nations. There is such great joy. The Knesset is rid of Arabs.