Israeli Civil Servant Who Backs Palestinian Right of Return Must Go, Minister Says

Makbula Nassar has been assailed by the transportation minister after the daily Israel Hayom reported that Nassar called the public security minister a ‘criminal bully’

Blogger and journalist Makbula Nassar in 2011.
Blogger and journalist Makbula Nassar in 2011. David Bachar

The person responsible for the National Road Safety Authority’s information campaigns in Arabic should be fired, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said Wednesday, following a newspaper article saying she's active in an organization supporting a right of return for Palestinian refugees.

According to the free daily Israeli Hayom, Makbula Nassar called Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan a “criminal, bully police minister.”

“Someone active in anti-Zionist Palestinian organizations and blatantly acting against Israel’s existence isn’t worthy of an educational and informational role for Israel in such an important area as road safety,” Katz said.

Arab reporters, public figures and the I’LAM Arab Center for Media Freedom Development and Research then sent a petition to Katz and Rachel Tevet-Wiesel, the head of the National Road Safety Authority.

“Dismissal based on politics is improper and worthy of condemnation, and is not to be accepted in a democratic society that should revere values of freedom of expression and pluralism,” the petition states. “The phenomenon is also a clear violation of the provisions of the law prohibiting dismissal on the grounds of race, origin or outlook.”

In the Israel Hayom article Wednesday, Nassar is accused of involvement in radical pro-Palestinian organizations and authorship of a controversial Facebook post in August.

“The Israel Police are quickly proving that they are willing to update their tools and abilities to suppress demonstrations and protests .... This is a primitive police force that relies on anyone who turns himself in or anyone collaborators inform against,” she wrote, according to Israel Hayom, a free daily owned by U.S. casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

According to the paper, in a post on the alleged police practice of force-feeding prisoners, Nassar wrote, referring to Erdan: “If anyone hasn’t noticed, we’re dealing with a criminal, bully police minister.”

Shortly after the article came out, Katz’s office issued a statement.

“In light of the facts that have been disclosed, Minister Katz has announced unequivocally that a legal way has to be found to immediately terminate the new employee’s employment at the National Road Safety Authority,” Katz’s office said, referring to Nassar. It said she should be suspended immediately, and if her activity was known about in advance, she never should have been hired.

Nassar is a blogger and journalist who won her current job after complying with all necessary procedures. She expressed surprise Wednesday over the newspaper headline and has received support from media figures and Knesset members from the Joint List alliance of Arab parties.

“Israel Hayom has crossed another red line in its persecution of the Arab community when it began a witch hunt against an Arab citizen of the country whose only crime was that she has a political consciousness and views,” Joint List chief Ayman Odeh said.

“Makbula Nassar is an accomplished woman, and I have no doubt that she can effect significant change in a field as important and critical as traffic-accident prevention for all the country’s citizens.“

MK Aida Touma-Suliman (Joint List) added: “Today another red line has been crossed in political persecution and oppression of the country’s Arab minority. Israel Hayom and those standing behind it have again proved that their work is nothing more than propaganda masquerading as news that has nothing to do with professional media work.”

On instructions from the National Road Safety Authority, Nassar declined to respond to the Israel Hayom article, but friends who have been in contact with her said her employers are backing her because proper procedures were followed in hiring her.