Arab MK Odeh snubs Conference of Presidents

Joint List head refuses to address Conference of Presidents because the premises are shared by "Zionist entities".

Ben Ariel,

Ayman Odeh
Ayman Odeh
Basel Awidat/Flash 90

MK Ayman Odeh, head of the Arab Joint List party, on Thursday refused to address a meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, reports.

According to the report, Odeh snubbed the meeting because it was held at premises shared by the Jewish Agency for Israel and other “Zionist entities”.

“We received several suggestions that MK Ayman Odeh be invited and, in keeping with the Conference’s decades-long tradition of providing a forum for a wide variety of points of view on issues affecting the American Jewish community’s agenda, we extended the invitation,” Stephen Greenberg, chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice president, of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said in a statement they released on Thursday.

“We have had leaders of virtually every faction and party in the United States, Israel, from friendly and unfriendly countries, and none ever refused to appear. For a member of the Knesset to assert that he will not enter a premises because it has an association with Zionist entities, like the Jewish Agency, is disturbing and dismaying. Representatives of a broad spectrum of organizations came to hear him and were rightly upset by his decision not to appear, although he was in the building lobby,” they added.

“We hope MK Odeh will reconsider his stance if he, indeed, wants to advance coexistence in Israel and promote understanding abroad. As a leader, he cannot succumb to the pressures of extremists in his constituency, but should take advantage of such opportunities to provide his perspective, and that of those he represents, to an important and interested audience,” the statement quoted by added.

Odeh responded in a statement published by JTA later on Thursday, in which he said that he had come to the United States “to represent the Arab public in Israel to American audiences” and that he “cannot in good conscience participate in meetings in the offices of organizations whose work displaces Arab citizens, just as in the Knesset, we do not participate in the Ministry of Defense, the Foreign Ministry, and the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption.”

Odeh has made headlines in Israel in recent months, such as when he demanded in October that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein prosecute Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for defaming his party and inciting violence against Arabs.

In a letter to Weinstein, Odeh claimed Netanyahu had invented a “blood libel” against Arabs when he characterized the Balad faction as "communists with a trail of Islamic State flags in their wake."

He has also refused to condemn Palestinian Arab rock attacks against Israel, saying that "there is no doubt that the occupied nation has a right to fight the occupation within the 1967 borders."

In another incident, Odeh accused Netanyahu of being "Israel's chief agitator."