Haaretz Criticizes Bishara Gag Order
Haaretz has finally editorialized about L’Affaire Bishara, criticizing the judicial gag order preventing it from fully revealing the facts behind the legal proceedings against Azmi Bishara:
Any way you look at it, the Azmi Bishara affair is problematic. Bishara is a member of the Knesset who is out of Israel under obviously unusual circumstances about which the public knows nothing. An MK is…a public figure; everything about his public affairs is the business of the public. Irrespective of whether the lack of information about him stems from his own need to protect himself or whether it is designed to assist the authorities in an investigation, the result is intolerable. Secret democracy is no democracy at all.
The editorial also usefully debunks some of the worst fearmongering about Bishara’s views stemming from the Israeli far-right:
Azmi Bishara is the most challenging Arab public figure in Israeli politics because he openly supports the de-Zionization of Israel and wants it to become a bi-national state. The claim that he seeks the destruction of Israel is unsupported. In an interview with Haaretz Bishara said, “I think that in 1948 the Jews in this country did not have the right to self-determination, and if there were such a right, it really caused so much injustice that I am not prepared to accept it. But now we are talking about an existing state, and despite the fact that I was opposed to its existence in the past, I now am trying to restore some justice to the relationship between the Israeli people and the Palestinian people.”
Clearly the Shin Bet, along with the Likud, also support this notion and this is largely what motivates whatever prosecution of Bishara that is planned. What I can’t understand though is what the security establishment gains by proceeding in secret. Such secrecy seems to indicate fear or weakness, rather than the “come out swinging” offensive posture you’d expect such officials to take if they were confident in their case.
Haaretz also calls on the Knesset itself to accord to Bishara the respect and immunity it accords to the rest of its members:
This office [Bishara’s Knesset seat] now obligates both him and the Knesset. The Knesset must respect Bishara’s immunity in all matters involving his public function as he sees it…
It is to be hoped that Israeli democracy will deal fairly and justly with the Bishara affair, and will not be influenced by the fact that he is an Arab. Perhaps as a first step, retired justice Dalia Dorner, the chair of the Israel Press Council, should use every possible means, including judicial ones, to make the information on the affair available to the public.
Wishing that Israeli democracy will not be influenced by Bishara’s ethnicity seems a vain effort. And I don’t know much about the Press Council, but this seems a tame and tepid response to the Shin Bet’s onslaught against Israeli democracy. I was hoping for a bit more spine, a bit more defiance from Israel’s leading liberal daily.
There is good reason to be concerned about the Knessset’s posture toward Bishara as another Haaretz article makes clear. The Israeli body plans to meet in “extraordinary session” to consider the Bishara affair. But the terms of the debate already make clear that they’re prepared, nay eager, to throw him to the wolves:
MK Zevulun Orlev (National Union) said the plenum would focus on “the question of the loyalty of Arab MKs to the Jewish and democratic State of Israel, with the Bishara affair and with meetings by Arab MKs with the enemies of Israel, which represents a crossing of red lines.”
Even given that Orlev is a clearly racist hard-right political operative, such hateful sentiments are deeply disturbing. This type of statement indicates the level of hatred and mistrust that Israeli Arabs must face not just in their own parliament, but in their everyday lives.
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Now that the gag order on the gag order has been lifted we can know that an INVESTIGATION is being carried against Bishara and has not yet been copmpleted. So that your prior posting “Let the world know the charges” is wrong and misleading (once again), since there are no charges yet, and maybe there never will be. MKs do not have immunity from investigations. From the radio today I learned that MKs also do not have immunity from arrest in two cases only: violent crimes or treason. Perhaps Bishara has not returned to Israel because he hasn’t completed doing whatever it is he was doing. Or, perhaps he knows what the shin bet has against him and he knows that his immunity won’t help. Time will tell.
Bishara has done a great deal to cause mistrust between Israeli Jews and Arabs. He deserves to be thrown to the wolves. Let him live a long life in exile
This Israeli Arab representative, Bishara had no integrity.
He was in the pocket of Syria, Hizbollah….
There is no hope for the Israeli minorities and for the Gaza/West Bank Palastinians until a leader rises who has an impeccable integrity.
The same is true for Israel.
If there were good Israeli and Palestinian leaders whose words can be trusted by ordinary Israelis and Palestinians to create a bridge between the enlightened crossover people, there will be a strong majority to defeat the extremists on both sides.
Rumours – supposedly substantiated – on Israeli blogs – mostly right wing – say Bishara is being investigated for spying for Syria.
If he in fact did so, who can support him?
On the other hand, he himself has now announced that he may delay his resignation from the Knesset in order to avoid prosecution – and since spying would not be covered by a Knesset Member’s immunity from prosecution – maybe the alleged charges are something else.
On the third hand, it could be that what the Shin Bet calls “spying” is another persons “discussions” . Bishara openly travelled to Syria, and held discussions with the government officials there. (This is something that would be illegal for an ordinary Israeli, but specifically covered by a Knesset members immunity.) But what did he tell them? If it was the detailed location or nature of Israeli military facilities, that’s spying in anyone’s book. If it was his evaluation of the political forces in the Knesset, or the mood of the Israeli Arab “street”, or his evaluation of the Israeli publics opinion on war and peace – is that spying?
And Avigdor Lieberman, Meir Kahane and any number of Arab-hating Israeli Jewish politicians haven’t done “a great deal to cause mistrust” bet. Arabs and Israeli Jews??? C’mon. Are you wearing blinders? Do you think hate sprouts in a vacuum? Hate is a 2 way street.
So you wanna talk about “integrity?” Who has more integrity–Olmert or Bishara? Sharon or Bishara? Ramon or Bishara? Katsav or Bishara? Hanegbi or Bishara? Netanyahu or Bishara? Don’t mention integrity in this regard or you won’t find a single Israeli politician who can be compared favorably with him except the few who don’t have real power like perhaps Beilin or Aloni or Sarid or the like.
I don’t know what Bishara will be accused of but if it involves money do you think any corruption that might (and I emphasize MIGHT) have taken place could compare with corruption on the grand scale of the Sharon-Olmert political clique?
Not at all. The context of my statement makes clear that I was not just talking about “charges.” I was talking about the entire process. Let’s hear what he is suspected of. Let’s hear what evidence there is. Let’s hear Bishara’s reply. That’s what happens in a true democracy.
As for there possibly never being charges brought against him–if I was a security agency director and brought a gag order of this political magnitude against a sitting Knesset member & then didn’t bring charges, I’d hope that someone would fire me or at least haul my ass on the carpet to find out what the hell I was thinking when I clamped down that gag order.
And perhaps the moon is made of green cheese.
A few problems with this statement. “Rumors” are by definition unsubstantiated. And rumors on right-wing Israeli sites are even more suspect than yr average garden variety rumor. Though there is still a chance that some of this will turn out to be true.
If the charge is espionage, it might not be covered by parliamentary immunity. But I think the entire effort to strip his immunity & prosecute him would be instructive for Israeli democracy. We’ll get to see what it’s really made of. And whether it is possible for Arabs to participate effectively within Israeli democracy w/o being criminalized.
This reminds me in some ways of Black political participation in the Reconstruction era south. After the Civil War, Blacks played prominent roles in southern politics until Reconstruction was dismantled. After that, it took 100 years before meaningful Black political participation resumed within southern American democracy.
Israeli Arabs could always opt out of all political participation in Israeli life. While some Israeli Jews would welcome that or say “good riddance to ’em” they don’t realize that this would a deep and abiding blemish on Israeli democracy & would never be fully accepted within the international community where Israel longs to be embraced.
Precisely my point. Neocons wanted to throw Nancy Pelosi in federal prison for having precisely these types of political “discussions” with Syrian leaders. And if Bishara revealed state secrets to Syria let ’em prove it in a court of law rather than hiding behind a gag order.