The Joint List Rejects Peace—and the Media Rejects Coverage

On Oct. 15, 2020, Israel’s legislative branch, the Knesset, voted to accept the government’s recent peace agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. The Sept. 15, 2020 agreements, known as the Abraham Accords, were approved in a vote that followed unanimous approval by Israel’s cabinet. Yet, the vote in the Knesset wasn’t unanimous.

One political party—the Joint Arab List—cast all of the 13 votes against the peace deals. The measure still easily passed. Yet many major news outlets ignored the Arab List opposition to the Accords. The Joint List’s opposition is newsworthy, however.

As JNS has noted, the Abraham Accords are the “first agreements between Israel and other Mideast nations since Israel’s peace with Egypt in 1979 and with Jordan in 1994.” Further, “the UAE and Bahrain are the first Gulf countries to normalize ties with the Jewish state.”

The Abraham Accords are noteworthy for other reasons, as well. As CAMERA has highlighted, Israel’s previous agreements with Jordan and Egypt lacked the social, economic, and educational components that are contained in the accords with Bahrain and the UAE. But as JNS reported on Oct. 15, 2020:

“Under the Israel-UAE deal, the two countries agreed to sign bilateral agreements on security, tourism, direct flights, investment, telecommunications, technology, health care, reciprocal embassies, culture, energy and the environment.”

The Accords, then, are farreaching and potentially transformative.

The head of the Joint List, Ayman Odeh, explained his opposition to the peace deals—on a television station run by a terrorist organization. During an interview with Al Manar, Odeh said that the Accords “are based on a flawed assumption: that the fundamental issue in the East is the Iranian question, and not the Palestinian question, and that there must be an alliance to defeat it.”

Odeh added,Practically, the Israeli occupation is the fundamental problem. All this talk of ‘combating Iran,’ we cannot accept this twisted logic, either morally or nationally.” Iran has been listed by the U.S. State Department as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and Iranian leaders have repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel. Among the terror groups that Iran backs is Hezbollah.

As CAMERA noted in its 2016 backgrounder, Hezbollah actively seeks the end of Israel and has been engaged in a war with the Jewish state for decades. Hezbollah’s propaganda arm is Al Manar—the station that Odeh gave an interview. In 2006, the U.S. Department of the Treasury designated Al Manar as a “specially designated global terrorist entity,” noting that it and Al Nour radio “are the media arms of the Hizballah terrorist network and have facilitated” the terror group’s “activities.”

Odeh’s interview with Al Manar should be newsworthy. Ditto for the Joint List’s opposition to the peace deals. Yet, most major Western news outlets failed to provide coverage.

The media’s silence is particularly noteworthy given the fact that Odeh, as well as several of his Joint List colleagues, are frequent topics for news organizations. The Washington Post, for example, has written no fewer than ten dispatches in the last five years alone which focused on the Joint List and Odeh. In 2016, The New Yorker’s David Remnick—whose superficial reporting on Israel has been documented by CAMERA—even wrote a profile of Odeh entitled “A Palestinian Israeli Leader for Peace,” describing the Joint List member as a “political saint.”

But some other members of the Joint List have said and done worse.

As Tablet Magazine documented in a Sept. 23, 2019 report, “The Joint List, sadly, remains a vehemently anti-Zionist party whose members have often expressed their support for convicted terrorists.” Joint List member Haba Yazbak praised Samir Kuntar, a terrorist who murdered a four-year-old Israeli girl named Einat Haran by bashing her head against a rock in front of her father. In a 2019 Facebook post, the party’s co-leader, Mtanes Shehadah, posted “a photo of himself hugging Samir Sarsawi, a terrorist who had spent 30 years in jail for throwing hand grenades on Jewish pedestrians in Haifa. Shehadah called Sarsawi ‘a political prisoner.’” Tablet reporter Liel Liebovitz noted that Shehadah was “introduced to voters at an event” in 2019 that “began with attendees singing the Palestinian national anthem and offering greetings to Azmi Bishara, the former Israeli-Arab MK who fled the country after being accused of spying for Hezbollah, and Bassel Ghattas, another Israeli-Arab MK who has served a prison sentence for smuggling cellphones to a convicted Palestinian terrorist.”

Another top Joint List member, Ahmed Tibi, was previously an adviser to arch Palestinian terrorist Yasser Arafat. In 2012 the Knesset’s Ethics Committee reproached Tibi for “cheering on terrorism and violence” after he gave a speech in Ramallah that referred to Israelis as “occupiers” and slain terrorists as “martyrs.”

Yet, most major Western media have omitted this troubling history, instead choosing to depict Israeli voters’ concerns about the Joint List as a sign of bigotry.

A Sept. 24, 2019 Washington Post report, for example, described Odeh as merely “a Hebrew-speaking, Bible-quoting Muslim.” The Post omitted the Joint List’s history, and instead hailed the increase in the party’s voting bloc. Yet, a year later, several of those newly elected members chose to vote against historic peace agreements. And their leader chose to defend that decision on the propaganda network of a U.S.-designated terror group.

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