Israeli politicians and press attempt to slander progressive Palestinian-Israeli democratic movement

Israeli politicians and press attempt to slander progressive Palestinian-Israeli democratic movement
Israeli PM candidate Benny Gantz compared Palestinian Balad Party to right-wing Israeli fascist group, while right-wing journalists uses potential alliance between Arab and centrist parties to further incite against Balad.
4 min read
24 February, 2019
Prime ministerial candidate Benny Gantz compared Balad to a banned Jewish fascist group [AFP]

Israeli prime ministerial candidate Benny Gantz compared a progressive Palestinian-Israeli movement to a banned Jewish far-right group this week, in an attempt to discredit the pro-democracy Balad Party, advocates equal civil and democratic rights for Jewish and Palestinian citizens alike.

In his remarks against the Democratic Alliance, which advocates a democratic manifesto and calls for the establishment of a state "for all its citizens", Gantz equated Balad with the far-right Otzma Yehudit.

This party - described as "fascist" - is led by adherents of the Kahana movement, which was merged with the Jewish Home Party and National Union following pressure from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

"In our government there will be no Kahane and no Balad," Gantz said.

Balad, which was founded by the prominent Palestinian writer Azmi Bishara in 1995, responded to Gantz' remarks in a statement.

"[The comments] show that Gantz - who not long ago glorified and boasted about the destruction he inflicted on Gaza - is no different from Netanayhu who incites against the Arabs and warns about their coming to vote in droves."

"Balad is a moral party which promotes the most democratic platform - a state of all its citizens," the statement said.

Rights for all

Although incitement against Palestinians in Israel by the Israeli Right has been frequent in recent months, a special focus on the Balad Party has been made in right-wing Hebrew-language press to justify the presence of Kahane supporters in the pro-Netanyahu camp. 

Rumours of a potential alliance between a newly-founded Arab electoral list and Ganzt's party gave the green light for prominent Israeli right-wing journalist Amit Segal to  fuel rhetoric against Balad and its founder Azmi Bishara. 

In a recent article for Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, Segal sought to forestall any effort by the Gantz's list to ally with Palestinian-Israeli parties.

He claimed that the Israeli Left used Palestinian-Israeli politicians 20 years ago to get into power, in reference to the election campaign in which Ehud Barak competed against Netanyahu in 1999.

This gave the opportunity to focus especially on the founder of Balad by claiming "a year later, the Shin Bet discovered that Bishara had urged Arab youth to establish a Palestinian army that would free the Palestinian people, including the Arabs of Israel, from Jewish occupation", claims that have never been substantiated.

Segal added: "Members of the Labor Party and Meretz voted in favor of Bishara, under the guise of freedom of expression, and so that the size of the leftist camp would not shrink at the ballot box."


However for Segal, the votes by left-wing parties to protect Bishara's parliamentary immunity was contrasted with efforts of some of these to dismiss supporters of the far-right Kahane movement.

"This right to freedom of expression was not so important [to the left]," Segal said. "When the representatives of the left voted unanimously for the removal of Baruch Marzel (a supporter of the Kahane movement)." 

The series of slurs against Bishara and the Balad Party continued across the piece, taking especial advantage of Bishara's inability to respond or file defamation suits due to his forced exile. This allowed him to make far-fetched claims that the Palestinian intellectual spied on Israel and helped "guide" Hizballah missiles.

"When his betrayal appeared, he fled the country forever," Segal concluded.

In a further example of equating the progressive democratic Palestinian-Israeli movement with the fascistic Israeli faction, Segal railed against the Left's apparent protection and use of the Palestinian-Israeli parties on the one hand and their condemnation of Kahane on the other.

"The [Balad] Party is an organisation that supports terror and is funded by a party, but for them, the criteria applied against the Kahane movement have not been implemented," he wrote.

Kahana has calle for for the expulsion of Palestinian citizens from Israel, while the National Democratic Alliance has a democratic programme calling for an inclusive state with Jewish and Palestinian citizens having equal rights.

In exile, Bishara left party politics entirely focused on writing and research. He emerged as one of the most important democratic thinkers in the Arab world.

But democratic thought in Israel becomes a charge when it is persistent and challenges the state's increasingly right-wing and hostile administrations under Netanyahu.