Losing our way

Picture this if you will.

During the time when US citizens were prohibited from traveling to Cuba, a member of the House of Representatives decides to disobey US law and travel to Cuba to speak at the annual observances there of the January 1, 1959 overthrow of the Batista government and the rise to power of Fidel Castro and his Communist buddies.

At the celebratory event, the US Representative, present in Cuba illegally, rises to speak and says the following:  “I can tell you that the United States is in the midst of passing a series of anti-democratic laws and will soon even pass a ‘Death to Cubans’ law.  You should know that US Secretary of State Kissinger is a fascist and should go back to the country of his birth as he has no place in my homeland.”

What do you think would have happened to that legislator?  Most likely when he returned to the US Congress he would have been censured and probably removed from his position based on his flagrant violation of US law and his slander of government officials.

Well, yesterday, at a memorial service in Ramallah marking the seventh anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat, Ahmad Tibi, an elected member of the Knesset went to Ramallah to speak at the service.  According to a report in today’s Jerusalem Post echoed by all of the other news outlets as well, here is what was recorded:

Israeli-Arab lawmaker Ahmad Tibi at a memorial for Yasser Arafat in Ramallah suggested that the Israeli government will soon “propose a ‘death to Arabs’ law.”  Tibi, speaking Wednesday before a massive crowd marking the seventh anniversary of the Palestinian leader’s death, was referring to several bills offered by right-wing lawmakers targeting the left that critics have labeled as “anti-democratic.” He also slammed Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, calling him “the fascist settler that recently came to my homeland,” Ynet reported.  A former adviser to Arafat, Tibi referred to the late PLO chief as “the father of our homeland.”

Note that Ramallah is in Area A, which, according to the Oslo accords, is under full military and civil control of the Palestinian Authority.  Israeli citizens, according to Israeli law, are forbidden to enter Area A and, of course, Tibi, as a member of the Knesset is, indeed, an Israeli citizen.  So his being there at all was in violation of the law he is sworn to uphold.

Secondly, what is it called when a member of a country’s legislature enters an area forbidden to him by law and then speaks publicly in negative terms about the Foreign Minister of the country in whose parliament he serves?  Is it treason?  Does that meet the definition of betraying one’s country?  Is it sedition?  Is it conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of the state?  Or is it just plain stupidity along with a desire to show that he is simply not bound by the laws of the parliament in which he serves?

One would think that at a minimum he would lose his seat in the Knesset and be stripped of his parliamentary immunity.  But, of course, this is Israel.  And just as another Arab member of the Knesset, Haneen Zoabi, who travelled on the Mavi Marmara in May 2010 to break the blockade of Gaza was not penalized for actively demonstrating against the policies of the government and was not chastened, neither will Tibi.  He will come back to Jerusalem, retake his seat in the Knesset and although many people there will be angry with him, there will be no price to pay for such insolence.  And once again the Zionist enterprise will be shown to be lacking in the courage to defend its own laws.

O tempora, o mores, shame on the times and its customs, as uttered by Cicero in the Senate of Rome in his second oration against Verres.  The founders of the country must be turning over in their graves.

Sherwin Pomerantz is a 28 year resident of Israel, President of Atid EDI Ltd., a Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm, Chairman of HADAR-Council for Civic Action and former National President of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel.