MK Aryeh Eldad calls him an enemy. Other MKs call him a traitor. Dr. Ahmed Tibi is currently the most prominent figure among the political leadership of the Arab population within pre-1967 Israel, and may well be one of the key figures in the Arab world's war against the Jewish state. He knows Israel as well as, if not better than, most Jewish Israelis do, and is an expert on the strengths and weaknesses of its society and culture. He is a favorite interviewee among Israel's mainstream media channels, despite his open support for terrorists and repeated incitement to violence.
Tibi is able to carry out actions which have every hallmark of serious sedition, treason and collaboration with the enemy – yet leave his image of a cultured citizen who is somehow "one of us" intact among Israel's intelligentsia. He is the Deputy Speaker of Israel's Knesset but has an oversized poster of Yasser Arafat against the backdrop of a PLO flag on his bureau's wall, facing the door. As chairman of plenum sessions, he has been known to correct Jewish Knesset members' Hebrew and cite sources for Hebrew idioms.
Bank manager's son
Tibi's surname (Al-Tibi, in its full version) denotes his place of birth: the Arab city of Taibe in central Israel. He was born in 1958, when Taibe – along with the other Arab concentrations in Israel – was still under military rule, in the aftermath of the 1948 war in which the Arab population fought viciously alongside Arab armies against the Jews, with the intent of annihilating them.
His father managed a branch of Bank HaPoalim, which had close ties to the Labor movement that ruled Israel in its initial decades. He was also close to Mapam, a pro-Soviet socialist Zionist party.
Tibi studied medicine in Jerusalem's Hebrew University. "I studied medicine and finished with hon
He was kicked out of Hadassah after a violent incident in which he swung his briefcase at a Jewish security guard.
ors in '83, and was ranked first in my class," he told an Israeli news site in 2004. "I began an internship in gynecology at Hadassah Har Hatzofim in Jerusalem in 1984. That year, I met Yasser Arafat in Tunis for the first time." At the time, just two years after PLO leader Arafat was expelled from Lebanon following the Israeli incursion in the first Lebanon War, meeting with Arafat was a crime under Israeli law.
Kicked out of Hadassah
Tibi never completed his internship: he was kicked out of Hadassah after a violent incident in which he swung his briefcase at a Jewish security guard who asked him to open it for a security inspection. The briefcase hit the guard on the back of the head and knocked him to the floor. The hospital administration dismissed Tibi during a closed-door hearing later that day.
Over the next decade, Tibi became increasingly involved in politics, and was a key figure in organizing contacts between the Israeli left wing and the PLO. These contacts eventually led to the Oslo accords. "In '93, after the signing of the Oslo accord, Arafat appointed me a special advisor for the peace process and Israeli matters," Tibi said in an interview. "In that year I coordinated the first meeting between Yitzchak Rabin and Yasser Arafat," he added. Tibi represented the PLO vis-a-vis Israel as Arafat entered Gaza and insisted that the rest of the PLO leadership be let into Gaza as well.
In 1995 Tibi formed the Arab party Ta'al and in 1999 he was elected to the Knesset.
Close friendship with Galon
Reif''s bloodied face was featured all over the news and a beaming Ahmed Tibi was seen climbing back on the bus with the parents of the dead Arab rioters.
Although Arab MKs had been known for hostile and provocative speech ever since the mid-1980s, Tibi's entry into Israeli politics, along with Dr. Azmi Bishara, signaled a rise in Arab MKs' temerity. Speeches by Israeli ministers were routinely interrupted by the Arab MKs, who made a habit of shouting "murderer" and other epithets at the ministers. Tibi was among the Arab Knesset members who tagged along behind then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon as he strolled on the Temple Mount in September of 2000, inciting the Muslim crowd to violence. The terror war which the Arabs dubbed "The Al-Aqsa Intifada" began the next day, and subsequent investigations found that it had been planned in advance by Arafat. MK Tibi – ever a welcome guest in Israeli radio and TV studios – called the war, which has killed 1,500 Jewish men, women and children, a "peace intifada."
Tibi was aided in his parliamentary and media campaigns by MK Zehava Galon of Meretz, who is a close personal friend of his, according to a source who is well acquainted with both Knesset members. Under pressure from Tibi and other Arab and leftist MKs, the government appointed a committee, headed by retired judge Theodore Orr, to investigate the police's reaction to the unprecedented and extremely violent Israeli-Arab riots which accompanied the outbreak of the terror war. Tibi succeeded in portraying the police as the criminals: it was they who opened fire on Arabs because of racism, he said.
On March 23, 2003, Tibi accompanied the parents of Arabs killed by police in the 2000 riots to an Orr commission session, in a bus that was hired for the occasion. During the testimony of former Galilee police station commander Guy Reif, the father of one of the Arabs who were killed rose from the audience and punched Reif, breaking his nose. Reif''s bloodied face was featured all over the news and a beaming Ahmed Tibi was seen climbing back on the bus with the parents of the dead Arab rioters. Reif eventually lost his job. The Arab who struck him received a sentence of two months' community service.
Two years after Arafat's death, Tibi made a public speech asking that his remains be transferred t
Tibi called upon Fatah's terrorists to continue their struggle against Israel, "until all of the Palestinian land is freed."
o the Temple Mount.
In 2002, the Knesset passed a law making it illegal for Knesset members to visit enemy countries without special permission from the government. Despite this law, Tibi and other Knesset members have made a regular habit of visiting enemy Arab countries. Another vocal Arab MK, Dr. Azmi Bishara, fled Israel last year after the police questioned him on suspicion of giving Hizbullah information regarding preferred sites for missile attacks during the Second Lebanon War. Tibi, however, has been careful not to be caught in such flagrantly seditious action.
'Lebanon loves you'
In 2005, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz instructed police to launch a criminal investigation against Tibi after he traveled to Lebanon without a permit in May of 2004. In January of 2005, representatives of PLO and Lebanese factions, as well as Lebanese parliament members, held a special rally in Beirut to show their support for Tibi, who is a highly esteemed figure in the Arab world.
“Lebanon loves you and everything you represent. They will never manage to cut the cord linking the Arabs of 1949 to their brothers in Lebanon," one representative said during the rally, which was broadcast live on Arab television network Al-Jazeera.
Tibi addressed the conference over the phone, saying, “Lebanon is a beloved country and the Leban
When the security detail asked him to open the trunk of his car for a security inspection, he refused, citing his status as a Knesset member.
ese nation is great,” he said. “The connection between us will not be severed despite the investigations and courts. I bow my head once again to all those who died in Sabra and Shatila because they were Palestinian.”
The investigation against Tibi came to naught.
'Israel wants to eliminate Arab children'
On January 11, 2007, Tibi participated in a large gathering marking 42 years since the founding of Fatah, in Ramallah. He called upon Fatah's terrorists to continue their struggle against Israel, "until all of the Palestinian land is freed." He accused Israel of murdering Arab babies. "They want to eliminate the Palestinian children, the women and the elderly, en route to the elimination of the ideas of Palestinian freedom and liberty," he told the crowd.
On August 15, 2007, Tibi arrived at the Prime Minister's Office to meet PMO Secretary Ovad Yechezkel. When the security detail asked him to open the trunk of his car for a security inspection, he refused, citing his status as a Knesset member. The security men did not back down and said that since Tibi had come from his home in East Jerusalem and not from the Knesset, his car had to be inspected. After involving the Knesset's legal advisor, Tibi eventually cancelled the meeting and drove away.
Tibi's political clout, the fear he arouses in some parts of the Israeli populace and his apparent popularity in others, make him a formidable adversary. The right-wing Jewish MKs have yet to show that they are able to deal with him in ways other than calling him names and filing complaints to the police which end up being ignored.