Opinion |

Bahloul, I Too Am Glad You Resigned

Coexistence never had our best interests at heart. Now it is time for us non-Zionist Arabs to stand our ground

Abed L. Azab
Abed L. Azab
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Israeli Arab lawmaker Zhoheir Bahloul, who has announced his pending resignation from the Knesset in protest over the nation-state law.
Israeli Arab lawmaker Zhoheir Bahloul, who has announced his pending resignation from the Knesset in protest over the nation-state law.Credit: David Bachar
Abed L. Azab
Abed L. Azab

One of the most famous events in the sadness-filled history of the Arabs is the death of King Wael bin Rabiah, better known by his nickname Kuleib. He was murdered by his relative Jassas, after he killed a female camel belonging to a respected and powerful woman in Jassas’ tribe. The king killed the camel after it entered a pasture belonging to him. The killing of the camel and murder of the king ignited a bloody, long-lasting war. The king’s brother Salem, better known as al-Zeir, grieved the dead king with the words: I wish the sky fell on everyone below it and that the earth shook, erasing everyone above it.

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I think this is the response MK Zouheir Bahloul (Zionist Union) was expecting when he announced on Saturday he was resigning from the Knesset following the passage of the nation-state law.

The responses were indeed quick in coming, with the media and political arena in turmoil. On most news websites the resignation was a major feature, described as “dramatic,” continuing in this fashion in Sunday morning’s newspapers. One of the first to respond was Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who said that “the Knesset will not cry, let him resign.” In contrast, the silence of Bahloul’s party chairman Avi Gabbay spoke volumes, having a simple explanation: Good, the Arab has done his duty; he is more than welcome to leave. Anyone following Gabbay’s statements ever since he was elected may assume he’s happy.

I too am happy Bahloul has resigned. For me, this is a very belated correction of two historic errors he committed. The first was in 2014, right after the Gaza war, given the romantic name “Operation Protective Edge” in Israel. In an article he wrote in Haaretz he gave the coup de grace to any possibility of Arab-Jewish coexistence, lifting despair to a pinnacle with his words: “I’m fed up with being an Arab in this country.”

I don’t know if he had already calculated his next moves but four months later he contended for a spot on the Zionist Union’s Knesset list and became a member of the 20th Knesset. Anyone with eyes in his head could see his statement about parting ways with Jews was the complaint of a spoiled child who won’t eat his porridge in order to extort some ice cream from his parents; in other words, the words of an opportunist. Ironically, his heart-rending cry was totally fulfilled: Mr. Bahloul, anyone joining the Zionist Union cannot be an Arab. You’re not an Arab. Only a year ago he was still calling for a union between Zionists and Arabs.

Bahloul’s second error came after Gabbay’s election as Labor Party chief and thus the head of the Zionist Union and effective leader of the opposition. Gabbay’s statements during his first days in office left no doubts: He hates Arabs and is unwilling to be with them in any political framework. Bahloul’s pathetic attempts to evince signs of an Arab patriot immediately faced a harsh, natural and expected reaction from someone like Gabbay: Bahloul will not serve in the next Knesset.

After such a declaration, if Bahloul had a shred of integrity and self-respect, he should have waved his letter of resignation in the faces of all his Knesset colleagues. Instead, he took his usual route, the wailing of a spoiled child. “A stranger in my land,” he wrote in Haaretz. The essence of the text was again the complaint of a pampered baby who is supposedly shedding bitter tears while from the corner of his eye viewing his parents’ reaction and a possible chocolate bar.

So, Mr. Bahloul, read this well and maybe you’ll finally learn. We non-Zionist Arabs, who never will be Zionists nor agree to Zionism’s goals, declare the following: a) We’ve cooperated with Jews who want what is good for their nation without contradicting the good of our own, in something called coexistence. It was often shaky and we often felt despair and helplessness. We even threatened to leave this partnership. We didn’t and we won’t. b) Anyone who doesn’t feel that this is his country and feels he’s a stranger here is invited, like other famous spoiled people, to move to the paradise called the United States. c) The nation-state law over which you resigned will increase our difficulties somewhat, but it’s merely a formal wording of the racism already enacted towards us. d) Therefore, we, the poor ones, the sons of our rocky hills and fields, are here to stay. If they try to uproot us from our homeland we’ll resist.

A final word to Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint List: Don’t you dare resign!

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