Arab Israeli Knesset Member Azmi Bishara claimed that the state of Israel is the greatest robbery of this century.
Bishara, addressing an Arab audience in Lebanon, asserted that Arabs were the original residents of the land and urged Israelis to leave and take their democracy with them.
"Israel is the 20th century's greatest robbery, carried out in broad daylight. I will never recognize Zionism even if all Arabs do. I will never concede Palestine. The battle is still long," Arab Knesset member Azmi Bishara stated at a Lebanese book fair last week in Beirut.
"The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is not a demographic dispute, but a national one. It's not the problem of 1.2 million Palestinians living in Israel. They are like all Arabs, only with Israeli citizenship forced upon them. We are the original residents of Palestine, not those who came from Poland and Russia," Bishara told Lebanese newspaper Al -Safir.
The Lebanese audience received Bishara's comments warmly. "Return Palestine to us and take your democracy with you. We Arabs are not interested in it," the Knesset Member stated.
Knesset Member Azmi Bishara was born in Nazareth in 1956; he received his doctorate in Philosophy at Humboldt University in East Germany. Bishara headed the Philosophy Department at Bir-Zeit University, located 15 miles north of Jerusalem, and was a senior researcher at the Van-Leer Institute in Jerusalem. Bishara announced his intentions to campaign for re-election to the Knesset in the upcoming elections in the party that he founded, the National Democratic Assembly (NDA).
Bishara left Israel for Lebanon last week without receiving consent from the Interior Ministry for his trip. This is not the first time Bishara has brashly spoken against Israel to audiences in hostile Arab nations. In June, 2001, a group of Knesset members sought to end his immunity from prosecution and brought charges of disloyalty against Bishara for a speech he gave in Syria at a memorial ceremony in Damascus for the late Hafez Assad. Bishara appeared jointly with Hizbullah terrorist leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and called for a ‘united Arab nation' to come together against Israel.
Angry reactions from Knesset members included then Coalition leader Likud MK Ze'ev Boim who said, "Bishara has publicly connected himself to Israel's worst enemies. This cannot be ignored, and the police should detain him and possibly charge him for conspiring with the enemy." MK Michael Kleiner of Herut stated, "In any normal country, they'd put him in front of a firing squad. It's inconceivable that an Israeli Knesset member would encourage Arab states to launch a full-scale war against us."
Bishara returned to Israel over the weekend and claimed that his address in Lebanon was commentary on the subjects of Zionism and citizenship. "I didn't say anything new that I hadn't said in other places. I've spoken like this in the Knesset," he told Yediot Aharonot.
In the most recent issue of the Al-Ahram Weekly Online, Bishara writes, "As long as the Israeli occupation is no more than just a pretext for terrorist violence, then there is no reason to end the reality of that occupation."
In addition to his harsh statements against Israel, Bishara also criticized the leaders of Arab nations who maintain diplomatic relations with Israel, including Tunisia where Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom recently visited. "Why does one of the Arab countries provide a home for Silvan Shalom, while the army destroys homes in Palestine on a daily basis? If you want to surrender, do it, but don't force us to give in," Bishara told Al-Safir.