Ha’aretz Flubs the Facts on Arabs in the Knesset

The charge that Arabs suffer inequitable treatment in Israeli society — usually simmering on a back burner — flares up anew from time to time.

There is certainly a place for newspaper articles and opinion columns that address concerns within Israeli society, not only between Arabs and Jews but also amongst Jews themselves — between native Israelis and newcomers, between men and women, between Ashkenazi and Sepharadi Jews, and in general, between different groups of people. It is a phenomenon that is certainly not unique to the state of Israel, but which exists in every Western democratic society and even more so in non-democratic societies and countries — one that is, and should be, covered in newspaper columns.
But such media commentary should distinguish between legitimate perceptions based on fact and those based on incorrect information. And no respectable newspaper should lend its pages to a polemic founded on fiction.

This, however, is exactly what the Israeli daily, Ha’aretz, did when it provided a platform to Salman Masalha – “a researcher of Arab culture, a poet and a translator,” according to the newspaper blurb – to spread false allegations against the State of Israel. (“Israel’s apartheid doesn’t stop at the West Bank,” March 3, 2010) 

The writer begins his column with the observation that “poetry and lies have much in common.” But while Masalha uses the comment to denigrate Israel’s Declaration of Independence as a disingenuous document, the observation is much more relevant as a description of how he, as a poet, crafted a thoroughly dishonest Op-Ed.

For example, Masalha outrageously asserts in the middle of his column:

The alienation is also evident with regard to the central government. This is the only democratic country in the world where one-fifth of the citizens – who are declared to have equal rights, at least on paper – have no representation in the government or in “provisional and permanent institutions….” [emphasis added]

One would expect a respectable writer and intellectual — and even more so, a respectable newspaper editor — to think twice before publishing such an overtly false statement. The inclusion of such an assertion indicates an overall disrespect toward readers who are apparently deemed ignorant of basic and obvious facts – namely, that Arabs are represented not only in government but in nearly every profession in Israeli society.

Below is a list of Arab Members of Knesset (MKs) who have served in Israeli parliaments both past and present. It includes men, women, Muslims, Christians and Druze who have or currently sit in the Knesset on behalf of Arab parties as well as mixed parties including governing parties and clearly Zionist parties like the Likud, Labor, Kadima and Yisrael Beiteinu.

(Click on each name to view his or her page on the Knesset Web site.* serving in the current, 18th Knesset)

  1. Ahmed A-Dahar

  2. Hamad Abu-Rabiah

  3. Laviv-Hussein Abu-Rochan

  4. *Afou Agbaria

  5. *Hamad Amar

  6. Asaad Asaad

  7. Shafik Asaad

  8. Zeidan Atashi

  9. *Mohammad Barakeh

  10. Rostam Bastuni

  11. Azmi Bishara

  12. Abdulmalik Dehamshe

  13. Seif E-Din E-Zoubi

  14. Hussein Faris

  15. *Masud Ganaim

  16. Haneh Hadad 

  17. Faras Hamdan

  18. Yussuf Hamis

  19. Salah-Hassan Hanifes

  20. Nadia Hilou

  21. Halil-Salim Jabara 

  22. Hussniya Jabara

  23. Amin-Salim Jarjora

  24. Muhamad Kanan

  25. *Ayoob Kara

  26. Masaad Kas sis

  27. Nuzhat Katzsab

  28. Hamad Khalaily

  29.  Tawfik Khatib

  30. Hashem Mahameed

  31. Raleb Majadele

  32. Issam Makhoul

  33. Nawaf Mazalha

  34. Mohammed Miari

  35. Jabr Moade

  36. Hanna Mwais

  37. Mohamed Naffa

  38. *Said Naffaa

  39. Elias Nahale

  40. Amal Nasereldeen

  41. Diyab Ovid

  42. Ahmad Sa`d

  43. Walid Sadik

  44. Saleh Saleem

  45. Tzalach Saliman

  46. Ibrahim Sarsur

  47. Shachiv Shnaan

  48. *Hanna Swaid

  49. Wasil Taha

  50. Saleh Tarif

  51. *Ahmad Tibi

  52. Tawfik Toubi

  53. Rafik Haj Yahia 

  54. Muhammed Wattad

  55. *Majalli Whbee 

  56. *Jamal Zahalka 

  57. Tawfik Zayyad 

  58. Abas Zkoor 

  59. *Hanin Zoabi 

Masalha’s charge that the Arab minority population is not represented in any “provisional or permanent institution” is similarly belied by indicating the numerous Arab members of the judiciary. Below is a list of Arab justices currently working in Israel’s court system. The list includes men, women, Muslims, Christians and Druze who work at all levels of the Israeli court system. (*Supreme Court Judge):

  1. Attif Ailabouni
    Judge: Magistrates’ Court, Nazareth
    Registrar: Dictrict Court, Nazareth
    Acting Judge: District Court, Nazareth (2007-2011)
  2. Osaila Abu Assad
    Registrar: Magistrates’ Court, Nazareth
  3. Abbas Assi
    Registrar: Magistrates’ Court, Jerusalem
  4. Ahmed Abu Freha
    Judge: Magistrates’ Court, Be’er Sheva
  5. Nasir Abu Taha
    Judge: Magistrates’ Court, Be’er Sheva
  6. Shaher Atrash
    Judge: District Court, Nazareth
  7. Ibrahim Boulus
    Judge: Magistrates’ Court, Nazareth
  8. Ghada Bsul
    Judge: District Court, Haifa
  9. Saaib Dabour
    Judge: Magistrates’ Court, Nazareth
  10. Nabeela Dally-Moussa
    Judge: Magistrates’ Court, Nazareth
  11. Mazen Daoud
    Judge: Magistrates’ Court, Krayot
  12. Zaid Falah
    Judge: Magistrates’ Court, Haifa
  13. Rabie Gabali
    Registrar: Magistrates’ Court, Krayot
  14. A. Jawad Haj-Yahia
    Judge: Magistrates’ Court, Tel Aviv
  15. Ramzh Hadied
    Judge: Magistrates’ Court, Haifa
  16. William Hamed
    Judge: Magistrates’ Court, Acre
  17. Mohannad Halaily
    Registrar:Magistrates’ Court, Acre
  18. Nohad Hasan
    Judge: Labor Court, Haifa
  19. Ziad Hawari
    Judge: District Court, Nazareth
  20. Said Issa
    Chief Implementation Off icer: Magistrates’ Court, Haifa
  21. Jamela Jabareen
    Registrar: Magistrates’ Court, Afula
  22. Kamela Jadon
    Judge: Magistrates’ Court, Haifa
  23. Nasser Jahshan
    Judge: Magistrates’ Court, Hadera
  24. Sari Jayyoussi
    Judge: Family Court, Nazareth
  25. *Salim Joubran
    Judge: Supreme Court
  26. Misbah Kabbani
    Chief Implementation Officer: Magistrates’ Court, Krayot
  27. Khaled Kabub
    Judge: District Court, Tel Aviv
  28. Ihsan Kanaan
    Judge: Magistrates’ Court, Nazareth
  29. Hiam Karawani
    Judge: Magistrates’ Court, Krayot
  30. George Karra
    Judge: District Court, Tel Aviv
  31. Nasrin Karyanni
    Judge: Family Court, Nazareth
  32. Lubna Khalaila
    Judge: Magistrates’ Court, Krayot
  33. Hashim Khatib
    Judge: District Court, Nazareth
  34. Tawfik Kteily
    Vice President: District Court, Nazareth
  35. Mohamad Massarwi
    Judge: Magistrates’ Court, Hadera
  36. Nadim Morani
    Registrar: Magistrates’ Court, Krayot
  37. Shaden Nashef-Abu Ahmad
    Judge: Magistrates’ Court, Afula
  38. Reem Naddaf
    Judge: Magistrates’ Court, Tiberias
  39. Jameel Nasser
    Judge: Magistrates’ Court, Acre
  40. Riad Qudsi
    Registrar: Magistrates’ Court, Nazareth
  41. Kamal Saab
    Judge: District Court, Haifa
  42. Hanna Sabbagh
    Judge: Magistrates’ Court, Nazareth
  43. Einas Salameh
    Vice President: Magistrates’ Court, Haifa
  44. Ziad Salih
    Judge: Magistrates’ Court, Acre
  45. Shakieb Serhan
    Vice President, Magistrates’ Court, Nazareth
  46. Salwa Shami
    Registrar: Labor Court, Nazareth
  47. Enaam Shargawe
    Registrar: Magistrates’ Court, Nazareth
  48. Maha Smair-Ammar
    Judge: Labor Court, Haifa
  49. Arafat Taha
    Judge: Magistrates’ Court, Nazareth
  50. Wadad Younis
    Registrar: Magistrates’ Court, Tiberias
  51. Sohil Yousif
    Registrar: Magistrates’ Court, Nazareth
  52. Raghd Zubi
    Registrar: Magistrates’ Court, Safed

In addition, there are countless doctors, pharmacists, lawyers, officials and civil servants from the Arab sector who provide services to both Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel.

Masalha’s charge that Israel is “the only democratic country in the world” which allows “no representation” of its Arab citizens turns truth completely on its head in other ways. The reality is that Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East where Arabs, like him, can live, exercise democratic freedoms and take advantage of its comforts and benefits, including free education, health insurance, social security, and perhaps most strikingly, the freedom of expression that Masalha, unlike the vast majority of his Arab brethren in the Middle East, enjoys.

In another misleading sample of demagoguery, Masalha complains that Israeli police cars carry the word “police” in Hebrew, but not in Arabic. He writes:

How does an Arab citizen feel about a police force that appears in his community, but does not include any writing in his language? Does this not symbolize, more than anything else, that the police represent an occupation regime, a foreign regime?

What Masalha fails to note, however, is that in Israel — unlike many other multilingual democracies that have only one official language — Arabic too is an official language. Street signs throughout the country are posted in Arabic as well as Hebrew. Official documents, informational brochures, labels and pamphlets are published in Arabic. Many Arab citizens conduct their daily business in all sorts of public service offices — social security, interior ministry, transportation, health care clinics, etc. — in Arabic, with clerks who speak the language and with literature available in their language. Telephone assistance for many basic services frequently includes an Arabic-language option. But these facts do not support Masalha’s message and mission, and so he ignores them.

What is Masalha’s mission? In an earlier interview with Ha’aretz, the writer called for the replacement of the Jewish state with a single state of its citizens, abolishing the Israeli national anthem and flag. His current column tries to promote that goal by contending that Israel is an “apartheid” state. And “apartheid,” Masalha claims, is “reflected throughout the [Israeli] media.” Of course, the very publication of his column undermines Masalha’s argument by proving precisely the opposite – that he is a member of a tolerant society that permits every citizen freedom of speech, the right to criticize the government, and the right to protest in accordance with the law.  Perhaps if he weren’t so busy inventing facts to buttress his enmity toward Israel, he could focus on real problems facing the Arab community.

As for Ha’aretz, readers will continue to wonder why the publication has so little regard for the most fundamental tenet of journalism — to provide accurate information to the public.

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