Jewish MP on Arab Israeli slate rejects ‘traitor’ label

Updated 26 February 2015

Jewish MP on Arab Israeli slate rejects ‘traitor’ label

Laqiya, Israel: As a Jewish Israeli Communist running for election under an Arab banner, Dov Khenin is often the butt of jokes. But for some, he is nothing less than a traitor.
In a country where most of the electorate leans to the right, the 57-year-old member of a Communist party that includes both Jewish and Arab lawmakers is used to threats and hate mail.
But the backlash intensified after his party united with the main Arab factions, including the Islamist Movement, on a joint list ahead of snap elections on March 17.
Although Khenin is not the only Jewish Israeli on the list, which counts 119 people, he holds the eighth slot, making him the only one with a realistic chance of entering parliament on the Arab slate.
Khenin’s Facebook page has been filled with a litany of abusive postings including threats of physical and sexual assault, and accusations of anti-Semitism.
“I’ve been subjected to many threats,” the father-of-three told AFP, saying that during last year’s 50-day war between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza, the state security services had to protect him and his family.
“It wasn’t a pleasant situation... but it wasn’t enough to make me change my views,” he told AFP while campaigning in the Bedouin village of Laqiya in Israel’s southern Negev desert.
“I see myself first of all as a human being, a socialist, an Israeli, a Jew that cares a lot for his people, and who offers them an alternative, a better way than that presented by the ideology of those ruling Israel.”
A proactive legislator, Khenin has been involved in proposing various bills relating to human rights and particularly women’s rights.
But he carefully avoids the question of whether or not he is a Zionist — a label even liberal Israelis give themselves — perhaps so as not to upset the Arab-Israeli electorate.
If Khenin’s views were unpalatable for most Israelis before the snap election was called, the Hadash Communist party’s joining forces with three Arab parties has seen the attacks increase exponentially.
“A party of Israel-haters who represent Hamas,” wrote one person on Facebook
“It’s always amazing to see the Judenrat sucking up to the new Nazis,” wrote another, referring to Jewish officials who collaborated, often under duress, with Hitler’s regime during World War II.
“How can a communist exist alongside the extremist Islamic Movement? Shame on you! ... It’s sad that there are Jews that have sold their soul,” added another.
But Khenin insists that his party has not “merged with the Islamic Movement.”
“There’s a political alliance here by parties who depend on the (vote of the) Arab population primarily to counter attempts to exclude Arabs from the Israeli political arena,” he said.
The Arab joint list was formed in January to fight against the domineering influence of the rightwing parties who featured prominently in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling coalition, its leaders say.
“The extreme rightwing government has led the Israeli society to a deadlock,” Khenin said of Netanyahu’s outgoing cabinet which included hawkish pro-settlement ministers and those who flatly oppose the notion of a Palestinian state.
“After years under Netanyahu’s rule, there’s no security here, there’s no peace. There are no solutions for social problems.”
During the previous elections in 2013, Hadash and the other Arab parties ran separately, collectively chalking up 11 seats.
But after the threshold of minimum votes needed for any representation in parliament was raised from 2.0 to 3.25 percent, the parties were forced to unite in order to survive.
A poll published Wednesday in the Haaretz daily predicted the joint list will garner 12 seats — the same number as the centrist Yesh Atid and the far-right Jewish Home party.
The other candidates on the joint list, which is hoping to become the third bloc within the next parliament, speak Hebrew when talking with Khenin, although he also understands Arabic.
Far from the failed rounds of peace talks and settlement building of Netanyahu’s hawks, Khenin wants an independent Palestinian state living in peace beside Israel, and an enfranchised Arab minority existing within the Jewish state.
“This minority doesn’t pose a threat to anyone, and equal rights for them shouldn’t frighten Jews. It will not exist in the place of Jews, but side by side.
“A democratic state in which citizens have equal rights is not something one should fear, but work to realize.”
As for the thorny issue of Jerusalem’s status: “Two capitals in Jerusalem is very possible. It will fulfil the aspirations of both peoples, and enable us to achieve peace in this land,” he said.


Lebanese vow to reject any Palestinian resettlement linked to Trump peace plan

Updated 51 min 4 sec ago

Lebanese vow to reject any Palestinian resettlement linked to Trump peace plan

  • Trump’s plan includes billions of dollars of investment in the Palestinian territories and neighboring countries
  • Figures from the Lebanese Ministry of Interior reveal that the country hosted almost 600,000 Palestinian refugees between 1948 and 2016

BEIRUT: In response to the unveiling of US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan on Tuesday, politicians and activists in Lebanon reiterated their support for the right of Palestinians to return to their homeland, and said they would reject any attempt to permanently resettle refugees on its soil.

Trump’s plan includes billions of dollars of investment in the Palestinian territories and neighboring countries, including Lebanon, which is grappling with an unprecedented economic crisis. Some are worried that the investment might be an inducement to accept the permanent settlement of Palestinian refugees, sparking renewed fears of a shift in the country’s Christian-Muslim balance.

Lebanon hosts 12 refugee camps for Palestinians. A day of protest about the Trump plan was due to take place in the camps on Wednesday, including a general strike, marches and rallies.

Figures from the Lebanese Ministry of Interior reveal that the country hosted almost 600,000 Palestinian refugees between 1948 and 2016. The number registered with The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) is 459,292. A census carried out in 2017 by Lebanon’s Central Statistics Department and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in 2017 found that 174,422 refugees lives in the camps.

“Lebanon does not currently have any strategy on how to face this difficult moment,” said Hassan Mneimneh, head of the Lebanese–Palestinian Dialogue Committee (LPDC), an inter-ministerial government body.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not prepared any strategy on how to deal with any attempt to impose resettlement as a fait accompli. We, as Lebanese, must strive to confront this long path because resettlement will not happen overnight, and Lebanon must refuse any trade off between its faltering economic situation and the resettlement issue. There should be no compromise on this matter at all.

“The solutions to the economic crisis must be far removed from the temptations that might be offered to Lebanon in exchange for resettlement.”

Walid Ghayad, a spokesman for the Maronite Catholic Patriarchate in Lebanon, stressed that it “absolutely rejects any attempt to resettle the Palestinians in Lebanon and supports the official Lebanese position, which is enshrined in the constitution.”

He added: “All kinds of deals calling for resettlement are rejected, and (the church) supports the establishment of the two-state solution. It hosted an Islamic-Christian spiritual summit when the US president announced his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi also participated in the Al-Azhar Al-Sharif International Conference on Supporting Jerusalem.”

The leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, Walid Jumblatt, said that Trump’s so-called deal of the century “is the end of the two-state solution and the beginning of the project of displacement to reach an alternative homeland.”

MP Simon Abi Ramia from the Free Patriotic Movement, which opposes any resettlement in Lebanon for fear of upsetting the sectarian balance, described the deal of the century as “the result of a policy of deception adopted by some sister states against the Palestinian issue.”

Ali Faisal, a member of the Political Bureau of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and himself a refugee in Lebanon, said: “A number of Palestinian youths and Palestinian families have migrated from Lebanon to work abroad. There are 160,000 Palestinians working in the Gulf countries, while others migrated in stages to Europe and Canada, and a limited number to Australia.”

He said that there are “fewer than 100,000 Palestinian refugees from Lebanon who are abroad and have another nationality. Those who were removed from the Lebanese records in 2009 as a result of possessing a second nationality began to regain their Palestinian citizenship after efforts made by the Palestinian authorities and the Lebanese state to assert the Palestinian right of return.”

Faisal described Trump’s peace deal as “a political holocaust against the Palestinians and their right of return.”

He added: “The new Palestinian generation is more attached to Palestine than its predecessors. Palestinians (do not want) resettlement, rather they want support to continue (their struggle) to return.

“The economic crisis that Lebanon is experiencing has affected Palestinian refugees, who are already deprived of their human rights. The unemployment rate among Palestinians in Lebanon’s camps has risen from 60 percent to 70 percent. UNRWA’s medical and relief services have declined. What is needed is an emergency plan from UNRWA to help Palestinians survive Lebanon’s economic crisis.”

The Fatah movement in Lebanon announced the “comprehensive mobilization of its ranks” and declared Wednesday a “day of rage” and protest in all Palestinian camps and communities in Lebanon.

Fatah said “it stands behind President Mahmoud Abbas” and vowed to “resist the damned deal by all methods guaranteed by international and humanitarian laws.”

Ayman Shana’a, Lebanese relations officer in the Hamas movement, said that Trump’s plan “is an obituary to all the agreements with the Palestine Liberation Organization and international agreements, as well as the Oslo agreements and international resolutions. The only way to confront this deal lies in Palestinian national unity that stands in the face of all challenges.”

Ihsan Ataya, a representative of the Islamic Jihad movement in Lebanon, said: “Trump is trying to give an electoral boost to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He is throwing out all international resolutions, humanitarian standards and norms, and we will not allow this deal to pass.

“Our people at home and in the diaspora will remain attached to all their rights and will not accept resettlement or displacement...and resistance is ready."