There's No Place in Israel for an Honest Arab

Zionist Union's Zouheir Bahloul dared to say the truth - that anyone who tries to stab a soldier at a damned Hebron roadblock isn't a terrorist - and started an almost fascist stampede.

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Zionist Union's MK Zouheir Bahloul at Israel Conference on Democracy.
Zionist Union's MK Zouheir Bahloul at Israel Conference on Democracy. Credit: Dudu Bachar
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

He wasn’t always like that. All his life he tried to be a good Arab. Only a year ago, he took part in the reality game show “Survivor.” He was still proud of himself for realizing the dream of an Arab boy from Nazareth who wanted to meet Benjamin Netanyahu. On International Women’s Day he chose Lucy Aharish as his heroine. Only two months ago, he participated in a Hebrew language conference in Rishon Letzion.

The Israelis rewarded him with affection and even let him into Hagashash Hahiver’s (an Israeli comedy trio) hall of fame. And suddenly, this spectacular flop!

What did he say already? The most self-evident thing. He said that anyone who tries to stab a soldier at a damned roadblock in Hebron – a soldier who is part of a military force intended to make his and his people’s lives a misery and to deprive them of basic rights – is not a terrorist.

He said that someone who does such a thing does it as resistance to the occupation – a resistance recognized by international law and natural justice. He said that there’s a difference between murdering civilians and murdering soldiers. He said that if the stabber is a “terrorist,” then the soldiers who execute him are terrorists.

Zionist Union Knesset member Zouheir Bahloul was even willing to compromise on the term “murderer,” but not on “terrorist,” as his people are almost generically called. Terrorism by definition is directed against civilians, not soldiers. Trivial. Tzipi Livni has said it before, and during her term as foreign and justice minister.

But times have changed and now it’s forbidden to say anything that comes even close to justice, equality or logic. The State of Israel versus Bahloul, the crusade against an Arab for being an Arab, the almost-fascist stampede in the state of gags and muzzles.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, afraid of his own shadow, in the midst of a fight for survival, turned on Bahloul, proving once again his own shabbiness. But no less shabby was the squawk that arose from the backbenchers of his party, which would be crawling into the government were it not for the investigation against Herzog. None of them came out to defend the man who tried to tell a brave truth.

Science Minister Ofir Akunis was also angry. So was Shuli Mualem Rafaeli, whose Habayit Hayehudi party knows something about terrorism. But that’s nothing compared to the prime minister, the man who encouraged the parents of a soldier murderer and kept mum when he heard Habayit Hayehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich’s maternity ward tales – but fell upon Bahloul.

Channel 2’s Ulpan Shishi (Friday night news,) in the name of that haloed falsity balanced coverage, treated Smotrich and Bahloul equally. As far as Channel 2 is concerned, heinous racism is to be balanced with telling the truth about the legitimacy of the resistance. Each was presented as an “extremist.”

Bahloul came out badly. The day he joined the Labor Party his fate was sealed. There’s no place in this party for an honest Arab. There never was. It wants them as liars and collaborators, like most of Jewish society.

A few years ago, Bahloul hastened to retract worthy praise he uttered when interviewing a Lebanese activist who had organized a flotilla to Gaza. A few years later, he still dared to feebly rebuke his faction, which supported blacklisting Haneen Zoabi. Now he has come out of the closet of lies that all good Arabs are forced to hide in.

You don’t have a chance, Zoheir. Not in the party you’ve chosen. You don’t have a chance to be a good Arab in Israeli eyes. They want you to broadcast soccer, not to tell the truth. As long as you describe the events on the field in your magnificent Hebrew, you’ll be invited to conferences in Rishon Letzion. But don’t you dare exceed the lines of your allocated field.

However, the ball is round and it isn’t over till it’s over, as they say in sports. You can’t remain silent forever. You’ve come out of the closet, don’t try to get back in it. Count on your “friends” in the party and the “left-center” not to allow you to do that.

In Israel there’s no place for Arabs. even those like you. For them you too are “Zoabis” (a denigrating term coined by Yair Lapid to describe Arab lawmakers.)