On 18 September tens of activists of the National Democratic Assembly Party – Balad were detained by the police over unclear suspicions. The Israeli police and court have kept the allegations secret and were withholding them from both the public and those that have been arrested.
“There is no way for us to know what their intentions are. The material is kept secret from us. There are discussions between the police and the court, without our input,” Khaled Titi, a lawyer and spokesman for the party told Al Jazeera. “They have not yet presented the charges to us.” (1)
Mainstream Zionist media claims the detainees were involved in funding fraud of a few millions of Shekels in total. Balad leaders denied the accusations and accused the government and the police of engaging in “political persecution” of Israel’s Arab politicians.
Six party members and activists, including party chairman Awad Abdel Fattah, have remained in police custody, while at least 29 others were released after varying periods of interrogation.
We demand the immediate release of all of Balad Members as part of the defense of the democratic rights in this country!
Behind this raid is the fact that the Israeli state cannot accept Palestinians who do not dance to the Zionist tune of anti-Arab racism. The northern branch of the Islamic Movement led by Sheikh Raed Salah, was banned by the Israeli state in November 2015, allegedly for close ties with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. If that were in any way true – it would have been outlawed decades beforehand.
What actually lies behind this cynical use of Israel’s permanent “state of emergency” laws, is that the northern branch of the Islamic Movement became known around the world for defending the Mosques in Jerusalem. In the past the Israeli government used to persecute anyone who called for the establishment of a Third Jewish Temple replacing the currently standing Al-Aqsa area, as a provocateur and inciter of riots. However, in June this year chief Rabbi Lau stated that he supports the building of the Third Temple on the Temple Mount. (2)
History of Israeli Persecution against Balad
Balad is a middle class liberal anti-imperialist party that stands for a democratic state for all the citizens of Israel and has not resolved the issue of the right of self- determination of the Palestinian nation in the form of one or two states. It has suffered persecution throughout its existence. Most notable is the Israeli state’s accusation of the party’s historical leader, Azmi Bishara, of treason and providing aid to terrorist organizations after visiting neighboring Syria and Lebanon in the wake of the 2006 Lebanon War.
During that war, Israel used unprecedented force while committing serious war crimes against civilian population. However, it did not manage to win the war against Hezbollah’s resistance.
Bishara chose not to return to Israel to avoid being sent to prison on false charges. In 2009 the Central Elections Committee disqualified Balad over alleged support for armed struggle against Israel. The Supreme Court overturned that decision. Then, the right wing parties went after Haneen Zoubi, first Arab woman to get elected to the Israeli Knesset running for an Arab list, for her participation in the Free Gaza Flotilla.
Even before the Gaza Flotilla, hostile articles were written about her. For example, over her refusing to sing the Zionist national anthem. She was on the board the MV Mavi Marmara when Israeli commandos stormed the ship, captured her and killed nine civilians, while some soldiers were beaten up by resisting passengers.
On 13 July 2010, the Knesset decided, in a 34–16 vote, to strip Zoubi of three parliamentary privileges as punishment for her participation in the flotilla. She was also stripped of the right to participate in Knesset discussions and to vote in parliamentary committees. In December 2012, it was announced that the Central Elections Committee will deal with the issue of disqualifying Zoubi and indeed, it disqualified her in a 19–9 vote. A decision that that the Supreme Court unanimously voted to overturn.
Lately, the Israeli Knesset passed a law known as Zoubi Law which allows a special majority to remove any member of parliament whose positions they dislike.
Thus we have all the reasons to believe that the latest story is merely a part of the persecution of Balad and another step in the direction of it illegalization, as happened to the Islamic Movement.
We call on all people and organizations who defend democracy to raise their voices and demand: Israel – Hands off Balad!
In particular we call on the other forces in the Joint List (like Hadash and the CP as well as the Southern Branch of the Islamic Movement) as well as progressive Zionist to form a united front to protest against this attack on Balad.
The Illusion of Democracy
Israel is not doing a favor to the Palestinians citizens of Israel by allowing them to vote for a racist Parliament. As a matter of fact the decision by Menachem Begin in the early 1980s to allow the existence of independent Arab parties was part of the attempt to create an image of Israel as a democratic state. An image that the right wing Zionists of today do not care for as they want to openly turn the West Bank into part of an open Apartheid Zionist state from the river to the sea.
Unfortunately, the majority of the Palestinian citizens of Israel still have illusions in the possibility of achieving certain gains and reforms by participating in the elections. As socialist revolutionaries our task is to do and say what is necessary to convince as many of them as possible to abandon any such illusions, even if it means calling to vote for the Joint Arab List (or for Balad should this list eventually fall apart) – to test illusions against reality.
(1) Zena Tahhan: Israel police target Palestinian Balad party in arrests, Al Jazeera, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/09/israel-police-target-palestinian-balad-party-arrests-160927094430477.htm