Justice Minister Ayelet ShakedThe writer is Minister of Justice in the present government headed by PM Netanyahu. She developed the MyIsrael website and helped found the Jewish Home party.
Mr. Prime Minister and Honored Members of the Knesset:
The Joint Arab List claims that the government is taking advantage of the security situation to pass racist laws that trample democratic principles and freedoms.
As I look at you, my fellow Knesset members of the Joint Arab List Party, and listen to what you are saying, I absolutely understand where your sincere concern for Israeli democracy is coming from.
For example, take the head of your party list, MK Aimen Odeh, who was recently asked in an interview to explain why he doesn't call on the Arabs to cease their terrorist activities. Odeh answered - and I quote - "I cannot sit in my house in the Carmel [mountain range near Haifa] and tell the Palestinian people how to conduct their struggle."
When down below [those mountains] they are hurling rocks and firebombs, Odeh observes them tranquilly from his lofty perch. When down below the country is aflame, he sits comfortably in his house on the Carmel. He certainly doesn't get involved. Why should he? Let the show go on! And meanwhile? He is worried, sincerely worried, about the condition of Israeli democracy. He keeps proposing motions on the issue in the Knesset.
The bloodsoaked Arab struggle doesn't bother him. He refuses to get involved in such paltry matters. Murder, terrorist attacks, rock throwing, stabbing, all those are forms of free expression, obviously legitimate ones to Odeh's way of thinking. And he, as the leader of the Israeli Arab public, does not want to tell the Arabs where to draw the line.
Only one thing really upsets him – the newly enacted minimum penalty for rock throwers. He feels strongly that Israeli society will not survive this travesty. Blood flowing in the streets like water doesn't affect Mr. Odeh's peace of mind, but a terrorist who receives a long jail sentence is something he simply cannot bear. That's the kind of man he is, sensitive, caring, concerned about the state of Israel's democracy.
And now my eyes turn to his fellow United Arab Party MK, Basel Ghattas, who is also concerned about the state of Israeli democracy. Mr. Ghattas is the man who refused to condemn the murder of the Henkin couple, because – and I quote – "We cannot consider those settlers innocent people". And once again I feel the same deep concern for Israeli democracy on his part.
Because what is democracy all about, if not the murder of innocent civilians with whom one has political differences? What will remain of the civil liberties that the Joint List is so worried about if we begin to condemn every murder of a Jew?
It seems that according to Mr. Ghattas, there is nothing more democratic than spilling the blood of a Jewish family. He is so democratic and so concerned, that condemning murder is simply not in his lexicon. What is more democratic than utter silence at the horrendous murder of two parents?
However, there is one thing that does endanger Israeli democracy, according to Mr. Ghattas. And what is that? The authorization of search warrants. Let's get this straight – murder is bearable, in Mr. Ghattas' view, but actions that are meant to prevent murder are unacceptable. These actions, he feels, are destroying democracy. And Mr. Ghattas, like Mr Odeh, is a very sensitive person who is concerned for the health of Israeli democracy.
And then I remember another sensitive and deeply democratic member of the Joint List – MK Hanin Zouabi. Ms. Zouabi, whose calls for an intifada were heard by all of us. She is so sensitive to civil rights and basic freedoms that she makes sure not to miss a single violent event in our region. A straight line extends from her embarkation on the SS Marmara where IDF soldiers were attacked with knives and metal rods to her attack on a female usher in this building – an unwavering line marking her sincere concern for personal liberties.
Her very being sings an ode to the spirit of democracy.
And what about MK Zahalka, an especially warmhearted person who feels the pain of Israel's democracy. Mr Zahalka is so worried about the state of our democracy that, despite his being an avowed atheist, he chose to ascend the Temple Mount to serve as a model for individual freedoms. Not the freedom to pray, Heaven forfend. He doesn't believe in praying, not for himself and certainly not for Jews. Mr. Zahalka wanted to use his civil right to incite, his freedom to fan the flames, his liberty to encourage rebellion - all the individual rights we must protect.
My friends, there are members of Knesset, right in this house, who spend their days inciting and encouraging the Arab sector to escalate rioting and terror. Shameless and utterly brazen, they accuse the victim of their unfettered incitement of anti-democratic behavior if he dares try to protect himself by enacting laws to fight terror.
The [Arab] whining and wailing will not lead anywhere, nor will the accusations. Israel will do what it must to continue to protect its citizens, and I promise you that Israel will end up the victor in the struggle that has been forced upon it.
Translated from Hebrew by Rochel Sylvetsky, Arutz Sheva Oped Editor