”Israel is the 20th century's greatest robbery, carried out in broad daylight. I will never recognize Zionism even if all Arabs do. I will never concede Palestine. The battle is still long," Bishara stated at a Lebanese book fair in Beirut.
The Lebanese audience received Bishara’s comments warmly. "Return Palestine to us and take your democracy with you. We Arabs are not interested in it," the Knesset Member stated.
"The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is not a demographic dispute, but a national one. It's not the problem of 1.2 million Palestinians living in Israel. They are like all Arabs, only with Israeli citizenship forced upon them. We are the original residents of Palestine, not those who came from Poland and Russia," Bishara told Lebanese newspaper Al-Safir.
MK Azmi Bishara was born in Nazareth in 1956, and received his doctorate in philosophy at Humboldt University in East Germany. Bishara headed the Philosophy Department at Bir-Zeit University, located 15 miles north of Jerusalem, and was a senior researcher at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem. Bishara has announced his intention to campaign for re-election to the Knesset in the party that he founded, the National Democratic Assembly (NDA).
Bishara left Israel for Lebanon last week without receiving consent from the Interior Ministry for his trip.
This is not the first time Bishara has brashly spoken against Israel to audiences in hostile Arab nations. In June 2001, a group of Knesset Members sought to end his immunity from prosecution and brought charges of disloyalty against Bishara for a speech he gave at a memorial ceremony in Damascus for the late Hafez Assad. Bishara appeared jointly with Hizbullah terrorist leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and called for a ‘united Arab nation’ to come together against Israel.
Angry reactions from Knesset members included then-coalition leader Likud MK Ze'ev Boim, who said, "Bishara has publicly connected himself to Israel's worst enemies. This cannot be ignored, and the police should detain him and possibly charge him for conspiring with the enemy."
Michael Kleiner of the Herut movement stated, "In any normal country, they'd put him in front of a firing squad. It's inconceivable that an Israeli Knesset Member would encourage Arab states to launch a full-scale war against us."
Bishara returned to Israel over the weekend and claimed that his address in Lebanon was commentary on the subjects of Zionism and citizenship. "I didn’t say anything new that I hadn't said in other places. I've spoken like this in the Knesset," he told Yediot Acharonot.
In addition to his harsh statements against Israel, Bishara also criticized the leaders of Arab nations that maintain diplomatic relations with Israel, including Tunisia where Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom recently visited. "Why does one of the Arab countries provide a home for Silvan Shalom, while the army destroys homes in Palestine on a daily basis? If you want to surrender, do it, but don't force us to give in," Bishara told Al-Safir.
MK Bishara took part in a gathering in the Israeli-Arab city of Nazareth on Saturday, at which it was demanded that Israel recognize the "right of return" for Galilee Arabs who fled during the 1948 War of Independence. The participants called for an alignment of Arab organizations in Israel and in the Palestinian Authority (PA). The gathering was held under the banner, "Responsibility for the Historical Nakba," referring to the "tragedy" of the establishment of Israel as a Jewish state.