Azmi Bishara: Major league muzzling

The attempted muzzling of dissident voices is obviously not a phenomenon that occurs only in the US, nor is it one confined to the media per se. In Israel there has been a strong effort since at least the turn of the century to silence the political voice of Israeli Palestinians.
Case in point:

Azmi Bishara is one of the most, if not the most eloquent and capable politicians in the Middle East, he is Palestinian Christian Israeli member of Knesset (MK) and has been, in the last half-decade or so, continuously harassed by trumped-up charges that have the intent to kick him out of the Knesset and/or lead to his arrest. Currently there is an ongoing investigation that has the singular ignominy of having a gag order in place keeping anyone from knowing if an investigation is even occurring (its an open secret, however), let alone the actual substance of the investigation. Thankfully, this gag on the secret investigation was finally just lifted. In the recent past, the overall Knesset unsuccessfully, (but still a close call), attempted to have his party – Balad, declared illegal.

[Tikun Olam has more on the case here.]

And to be clear, this new investigation is also rejected by Bishara as yet another determined effort by the Jewish state to silence him and Palestinian Israeli political aspirations.

The short story is that he is explicitly anti-Zionist (given that he is Palestinian Israeli, this is really not a surprise) and refuses to accept laws that arrogate privilege and power to Israeli Jews while demanding that Israeli Palestinians follow the “laws of the state” that codify Israel as a Jewish State. This clearly puts in focus the deeply conflicted notion of a Jewish Democracy. He is for a bi-national solution and is an acute observer of the US relationship to Israel. In 2002 in answer to the question, how do you know the US has really told Israel to stop prosecuting its settler colonial occupation, he simply said: “when Israel stops.”

Azmi Bishara is the most challenging Arab public figure in Israeli politics because he openly supports the de-Zionization of Israel and wants it to become a bi- national state. The claim that he seeks the destruction of Israel is unsupported. In an interview with Haaretz Bishara said,

I think that in 1948 the Jews in this country did not have the right to self-determination, and if there were such a right, it really caused so much injustice that I am not prepared to accept it. But now we are talking about an existing state, and despite the fact that I was opposed to its existence in the past, I now am trying to restore some justice to the relationship between the Israeli people and the Palestinian people.”

Recently, a picture of Bishara’s home and its address was printed in Hebrew language newspapers. Bishara said “The publication … newspapers constitutes incitement to murder”. Which is a pretty strong argument that there are many who want Bishara silenced and Bishara even understands this point: (from Haaretz)

Bishara said that the nationalist stream within the Arab public was threatening to Israel. “We do pose a threat, and that’s why we are seen as a danger,” Bishara said. “It would be illogical if we weren’t seen as a danger and if we were not opposed,” he said, adding, “we stand against the defective situation of those who are connected to Israelization and to the regime.

Of course, no such determined efforts have been made to have cabinet minister Lieberman censored or removed or silenced, his racist and ethnic cleansing statements, in the scheme of things, far worse for long term state well-being than anything Bishara might say.

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