An elected Arab Knesset member who visited Toronto last week claimed that there is no democracy in Israel and that Arabs are victims of Israel’s “apartheid” policy.
According to a report in Shalom Toronto, MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) made the remarks during an appearance at the “Palestine House” in Toronto in honor of the Arab Land Day, which was marked on March 30.
The report said that MK Zahalka's lecture, which was entitled "Exposing the secrets of Israeli democracy”, focused on trying to disprove what he said is the "myth" of the existence of a genuine democratic government in Israel.
Zahalka explained that he chose to deal with this topic because, he claimed, Israel receives legitimacy and is internationally recognized as a democratic state, and this reality makes the “Palestinians” direct victims of this democracy.
According to Zahalka, the Zionist leadership in 1948, when the United Nations voted to establish the State of Israel, had two options - to establish a state by way of apartheid rule, or by creating a Jewish majority by expelling the Arab population in the region.
Ultimately, he claimed, the chosen course of action was to transfer Arabs in 1948, and the reason for this stems from the Zionist leadership’s desire to maintain a democratic self-image, because they could not bear the thought that they would have a racist apartheid regime which controls most of the Arabs. In 1967, Israel implemented the concept of apartheid, said Zahalka.
"The Palestinian dream is apartheid, let us have apartheid in one country, it is better for us than to be refugees," said Zahalka, adding, that in his view, the “Palestinian tragedy” is expressed in the Zionist leadership’s pursuit to establish a Jewish state, which tried to establish democratic rule by expelling Arabs. "We do not want this democracy. Take it away. It’s very dangerous for us,” he said.
The myth of Israeli democracy is expressed, according to Zahalka, by presenting an image to the outside world, according to which there is rule of law, allowing general elections, voting privileges for all, active political parties and discussion in the Knesset to approve proposed laws.
However, beneath the surface, he alleged, there is discrimination by the Israeli establishment against Arabs, the most outstanding manifestations of it being expressed in the expropriation of land belonging to PA Arabs, in the Law of Return granting the right to citizenship to Jews only, in the prevention of family reunification of spouses of PA Arabs when one spouse is a resident of the Palestinian Authority and the other is a resident of Israel, and in empowering local communities to establish committees to filter requests by PA Arabs.
He ignored the fact that Israeli Arabs have the right to vote, serve in the Knesset, study in Israeli universities, share the same hospitals and public facilities, work alongside Israeli Jews - and that PA residents have perpetrated terrorist acts that have killed thousands of Israelis.
Responding to a question from the audience, Zahalka said that he believes that the two-state solution was dying, adding, “In the long run there is no chance for peace, democracy and freedom without an end to Zionist hegemony. That's the key.”
"Palestinians have two enemies: Zionism and silence," said Zahalka, who explained that if the PA Arabs come to the conclusion that they are marginalized and there is a conspiracy of silence against them, they will launch a third intifada (uprising).
Zahalka has a history of controversial sayings and actions. In May of 2009 he was forcibly removed from the Knesset after he shouted that a proposed law calling for jail for rejecting Israel as a Jewish and democratic state is “racist”, and conducting a shouting match with then MK Aryeh Eldad.
In the past, Zahalka took part in a conference in India aimed at putting an end to Israel-India ties. During the conference Zahalka told Indians to stop purchasing Israeli arms because they are, he claimed, ineffective. He has also openly expressed his opinions that Israel should not be considered a Jewish state.
Zahalka is also the MK who took part in an interview on the Erev Chadash program hosted by veteran broadcaster Dan Margalit in 2009, in which he said that then Defense Minister Ehud Barak likes to listen to classical music and kill children, comparing him to a Nazi. A shouting match ensued between Zahalka and Margalit, ending with Margalit asking Zahalka to leave the studio.