Shades of J. Edgar Hoover! Imagine if you will that the FBI director announces that he will do everything in his power to thwart the legally-sanctioned activities of African-American groups seeking full equality for their citizens within American society. That is in effect what the FBI policy was during the 1960s. And now the Israeli prime minister and Shin Bet director have announced virtually a mirror policy regarding Israeli Arab political activity.
The controversy began when several Israeli Arab groups produced a report criticizing the undemocratic nature of the state through its denial of basic rights to minority Arab citizens. The report basically called for full equality for Arab citizens and for the eventual dissolution of special Jewish rights not shared by Arabs.
The government responded as if Arabs were planning to bomb the Knesset and take the PM hostage. Rightist politicos revived the old Arab dual loyalty canard saying Israeli Arabs were a threat to the State. And this was the PM’s response as reported by Haaretz:
The Prime Minister’s Office has sent a letter to the editor of the publication of the predominantly Arab party Balad saying it would combat the activity of any group or individual seeking to harm Israel’s “Jewish or democratic character,” even if that activity was carried out through legal means.
“The Shin Bet security service will thwart the activity of any group or individual seeking to harm the Jewish and democratic character of the State of Israel, even if such activity is sanctioned by the law,” read the letter, sent by the Prime Minister’s Office on behalf of the Shin Bet to editor Ala Hlehel.
The letter, published Friday, also said that the Shin Bet would fulfill this task with the “force of the principle of a democracy that defends itself.”
Would someone please explain to me how a “democracy” combats the legal activities of its citizens and remains a democracy? The fact that many Israelis would not even understand how troubling this statement is shows just how weak Israeli democracy truly is. Perhaps there is “democracy” for Israeli Jews. But not for Israeli Arabs. And if there is truncated democracy for nearly 25% of Israel’s citizens is there really democracy at all for anyone?
Hlehel petitioned the PMO last week following media released information of a closed-door meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and head of the Shin Bet, Yuval Diskin, in which the latter reportedly described Israel’s Arab population as a “strategic threat” to the prime minister.
The two reportedly discussed four documents drafted by groups representing Israel’s Arab population which call for a change in Israel’s character: “The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel” by the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, the Musawa organization’s “Ten Point Document,” the “Democratic Constitution,” by the Adala Center and the yet unpublished “Haifa Treaty.”
Why does it take an Israeli Arab to say what should be obvious to any Israeli who loves liberty and freedom for ALL the nation’s citizens:
Hlehel told Haaretz on Friday that the Shin Bet’s response violates the law that regulates its activity, constitutes a blatant breach of its authority, and proves that the “era of military rule imposed upon Arab citizens never ended.”
“The Shin Bet is supposed to defend the security of the country, not prevent democratic discussions over the nature of the state… this is very grave and affects all citizens of the state, not just the Arabs,” he added.