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When Ayman Odeh Raises a Hand

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Joint List leader Ayman Odeh at the Knesset, in July.
Joint List leader Ayman Odeh at the Knesset, in July. Credit: Noam Moskovich/Knesset Spokesperson
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

When Ayman Odeh raises a hand, the holier-than-thous are shocked. When the chairman of the Joint List raises a hand, the people of Israel unites. When Odeh raises a hand, the cannons roar and the conscience falls silent. It doesn’t matter why or against whom he raised a hand. Odeh raised a hand, and that’s not nice. It’s horrid.

Well, even the term “raising a hand” is an exaggeration: Odeh shoved. He shoved Religious Zionism MK Itamar Ben-Gvir, a man of nonviolent struggle who preaches Gandhi-style pacifism. Odeh shoved Ben-Gvir because the latter threatened to enter the hospital room of a deathly ill man who has been on a hunger strike for 90 days.

Odeh protected with his body Miqdad Qawasmeh, detained without trial, who is fighting courageously and in the highest form of self-sacrifice for his freedom and his rights. Qawasmeh is a freedom fighter, much more of course than all the self-righteous people who were shocked by Odeh’s act.

The shock washed over everyone. Ben-Gvir, a friend of the court, filed a complaint. A man such as he, one who overturns market stalls in Hebron, is not one to ignore violence. To him, violence is violence, but the shock this time came from the radical provinces of the Jewish left.

The head of Meretz, the party whose new motto is “the most socially minded, the most environmental” – the occupation and the struggle against it have died – was no less shocked than Ben-Gvir. The leader of the “new Greens” couldn’t hold back over Odeh’s shove.

He held back over the settlers’ vicious attacks on Palestinian shepherds and the pogroms against the olive harvesters, over the killing of protesters near the settlement of Evyatar and the assassinations and airstrikes in Syria, but when it came to Odeh’s shove, Nitzan Horowitz could no longer hold himself back.There is a limit to the amount of violence he can tolerate. And so, the leader of the Israeli leftists said: “Raising a hand is unthinkable... For such things Knesset members would once have been banned [from the legislature] for a very long time.”

The restrained Horowitz settled for Odeh’s temporary ban. Journalist Baruch Kra took a harsher stance: Send Odeh to prison. Our Baruchi, who is impressive and (nearly) always right, blew up: “Odeh crossed an unforgivable line. He should be kicked out of the Knesset immediately, his immunity from prosecution lifted, and he should be charged with assault.” Kicked out, removed, tried: The conscience of Channel 13 News has once again proved that Israeli journalists are never silent in the face of injustice.

What happens at Kaplan Hospital doesn’t stay at Kaplan Hospital, and is the entire story in a nutshell, encapsulated in a few minutes. A Palestinian detainee lies in his hospital room. He is the victim; the real scandal and violence are in imprisoning him without a trial. On that, everyone is silent, from Ben-Gvir to Horowitz.

Odeh, not Horowitz, represents the remnants of conscience in the Knesset. He is trying to protect the deathly ill man with his body. Ben-Gvir shouts at him: “You’re a guest here.” A guest in the hospital, but also a guest in his own homeland. Odeh lost his temper, and shoved Ben-Gvir. Had I been in Odeh’s place, I would have done the same thing.

What was the scandal over? The outcome. Not the detention of Qawasmeh, who of course is being called a “terrorist” everywhere, despite not having been convicted of anything; not over Ben-Gvir, for trying to break into his hospital room in order to torment a man who is on his deathbed; and not about all the so-called administrative detentions.

No, the scandal is Odeh: An Israeli Palestinian dared to raise a hand and hold his head high. He opposed the occupier with his body. From now on Odeh is a terrorist too, he’ll soon be detained without trial. Just as with Palestinian terrorism, the Israeli shock is always over the ugly, inevitable result, never over the cause. No only do the Palestinians have the right to resist what the Jews have been doing to them for 100 years, it’s their only option. Israel pushes them to despair, and from there to violence. And afterward, how easy it will be to tsk-tsk: Yuck, violence. Palestinian violence, of course.

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