Mohammed Barakeh’s courageous step

Hadash General Secretary and Member of the Knesset Mohammed Barakeh will join an Israeli parliamentary delegation to Auschwitz, a decision which has split Israel’s Arab citizens down the middle. The Abraham Fund‘s Mohammad Darawshe comments in a Ha’aretz piece which responds to the fear that paying heed to this Jewish narrative will validate a Jewish sense of entitlement while negating Palestinian claims.

“The country’s Arab citizens are probably split down the middle regarding Barakeh’s trip, but many of those who oppose it have suggested that it is too soon to show empathy for Israel’s Jews, as they are responsible for continued discrimination and marginalization of the country’s Arabs, not to mention the ongoing oppression of their Palestinian brethren in the occupied territories.

Others see Barakeh’s participation in a parliamentary delegation as problematic because they fear it may be seen as signaling acceptance of the Jewish narrative, and thus strengthening the argument that the Jews – not the Palestinians – are the victims of history. Some Arabs believe that empathetic gestures should be made by Israel’s majority, not by its minority, and that such a step by an Arab politician should be a “prize” given to the Jews only after they have demonstrated understanding of and offered equality to Arab citizens.”

This is why Mohammed Barakeh’s decision is courageous. Read on for Mohammad Darawshe’s response.

33 Responses to “Mohammed Barakeh’s courageous step”

  1. Sahar Nassar Says:

    Arab MK should not be traveling to death camp with members of racist Knesset

    Zuhair Andraos,7340,L-3836047,00.html

  2. Karl Pfeifer Says:

    Dear Mira,

    Why is that a courageous step? Communists declare to be antifascists, are they not sincere? Or is it so because so many Palestinians hate Jews? Because so many Palestinians hated Jews long before there was a State of Israel?

    An interesting reversion is to be observed, while during the British mandate, the majority of the inhabitants were Arabs, while the majority of the Palestinian communists were Jews. Now that the majority of the population is Jewish most of the communists belong to the Arab minority (1,2 Million Arabs, 5.8 Million Jews)

    At the time the Palestinian communists were warned by their Russian comrades, to “arabise” the party.

    Nowadays if they want to recruit more Jewish members it is a step in the right direction to join a delegation to Auschwitz.

    It would be very different if a leader of a communist party in an Arab country would go to Auschwitz. Noting the rampant Antisemitism in Arab countries, that would be really a courageous step.

  3. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Sorry to disagree with you, Karl, but I think that Barakeh’s decision to go on this journey _is_ a brave one, given the reality of politics in Israel/Palestine. Whether he likes it or not, Barakeh is a representative of the Arab-origin population of Israel in a way in which Asian-origin and Afro-Caribbean politicalns in the UK are not. The latter are now representatives of their _parties_, rather than just of their communities, even if they obliged to represent the latter as well.

    No-one (or at least no-one outside the far-right) would raise an eye-brow should such a UK politician decide to join a tour to Auschwitz. Indeed, the failure of certain Moslem representative groups to join Holocaust Memorial Day events has caused intense debates in political circles.

    All this is to say that, in the UK, the expectation is that those who wish to participate in the generality of politics, be it local or national, are expected to hold to certain (non-party-political) norms of behaviour. Clearly, this environment has yet to take _firm_ root in Israel, which is what makes Barakeh’s decision a brave one. It also make Darawshe’s article in Ha’aretz a bold one to write.

  4. Fabian from Israel Says:

    Let’s wait until he gets back. Let’s wait until he publishes his impressions of the trip. I wouldn’t get carried away. Jews like to believe in dreams of reconciliation.

  5. Absolute Observer Says:

    Why not find Sahar’s emial and respond to him directly.
    You both have such a degree of mistrust and suspicion, you will get on well.

  6. Karl Pfeifer Says:

    @Absolute Observer@ in fact you imply that the point of view of Sahar and Fabian are very similar. This in my modest opinion is wrong. While Sahar is generalising when writing on a “racist Knesset”, that is not mistrust but nonsense, for many member of Knesset are decidedly against any form of racism and racists in Knesset are a small minority.
    On the other hand: Fabian is just cautious and wants to see, how Barakeh will write when he returns from his trip. Fabian believes that reconciliation now is a dream. He did not say that reconciliation cannot be realised. While Sahar of course is rejecting a reconciliation because of “racist Knesset”

  7. Absolute Observer Says:

    “for many member of Knesset are decidedly against any form of racism and racists in Knesset are a small minority.”

    Barakeh is a member of the Knesset – i.e. his is part of a body whose large majority is not racist; indeed, is part of the non-racists himself.

    Granted, Sahar’s view is nonsense. On that we agree.

  8. Absolute Observer Says:

    I guess, on a more general level, is the mutual distrust of one party for the other that bothered me with FiI’s comment and the one above it.
    On that they agree. Hardly healthy for even the beginning of progress.

  9. Jonathan Romer Says:


    Fabian’s distrust is capable of alteration by experience: As he says, he’s suspending judgment pending Barakeh’s return.

    When it comes to Nassar, on the other hand, once you’ve swallowed the idea that the whole Knesset is racist, what argument is there that will bring you back to reality? You’re wrong to make any correspondance between Fabian and Nassar.

  10. Karl Pfeifer Says:

    @Absolute Observer@ I am glad you agree that it is a mistake to imply Sahar = Fabian.
    I share Fabians caution. The History of the communist party in Palestine is interesting. They followed every twist in soviet policy. They took a stand for Hadj Amin al Husseini during the late 30ies and some of them even for terror against Jews, they saw the 2nd World War until June 21, 1941 as an imperialist war.
    But they had a problem, when the Soviet Union became more Zionist than the Zionists in 1947 and of course the followed the line, so they took a stand against the war in 1948 and some of them suffered.
    The Israeli Independence Declaration is signed by a communist.
    I used to listen on Israel Radio to a Tamar Goshansky, who had good proposals for a more social policy. And if I am informed correctly the Israeli Communist Party advocates the 2 States solution to the conflict.
    So lets be patient and wait untiel Mr.B. comes back from Auschwitz.

  11. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    It’s Zuhair Andreos who is the author of the thoughts to be found in the Ynet News item linked to at the head of this comments thread. Sahar Nassar is the person who has provided the link on the Engage website.

    If you’re going to have a go at someone (possibly legitimately) have a go at Zuhair Andreos, editor of an Arab-Israeli paper, not S. Nassar.

    If you’re not careful, you’ll be accused of not reading the articles linked to! That would never do.

  12. Karl Pfeifer Says:

    The suspicion of Fabian is fully justified. Haaretz quotes Barakeh:
    “The Jews, who are the victims of the Nazis, are now practicing oppression against the Palestinians,” Barakeh told The Associated Press. “I want to tell them: You must learn the real lesson, you must fight oppression and repression in all places and times.”

    So Barakeh really does equate the Holocaust with the occupation. The Holocaust was not a lesson, and Barakeh is not a teacher. And the occupation could have been ended, if Arafat had agreed in Camp David to the last proposal or if Arafat would have made any counterproposals. But Arafat left and ordered the second intifada with terrible terror against – Jewish and Arab – civilians in Israel.

    • Mira Vogel Says:

      Look, Karl, Fabian – Barakeh is the leader of a political party taking the heat from a load of his constituency and political opponents who are politicising the memory of Holocaust to use as a lever against some Israeli policies. Barakeh didn’t have to go to Auschwitz – it would probably have been easier for him not to go.

      Criticise or condemn any Holocaust comparisons – I do, the Abraham Fund does – but don’t mix that up with the visit. The visit is important in itself – let that stand.

    • ECY Says:

      He does not “equate the Holocaust with the occupation”. He said “oppression and repression”.
      Or to put it another way, he no more “equates” Israel’s treatment of Arabs with the Holocaust than Arabs and Muslims are equated with the Nazis….this despite the absence of Arab or Muslim Auschwitzes….not even in Iran, where the theocracy has held power for over 30 years.

      Counterproposals? The Israelis and the Palestinians have not been anywhere near equal footing for six decades.
      Given that the original fight is over the entire land as a whole, accepting the 1949-67 borders is enough of a concession.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        And who here says otherwise, ECY? You’ll find many, possibly most, Israelis would agree with you on the question of borders. So what’s the problem (unless the person in question is a “from the river to the sea” advocate, of course)?

        • ECY Says:

          Who here says otherwise? Did you not read Karl’s statement?
          If “possibly most” Israelis are fine with the pre-Six Day War borders, then why wasn’t THAT offered at Camp David (or anywhere else for that matter)? Why the constant attempts to cling to pieces of the Occupied Territories?

  13. luny Says:

    You are absolutely right:
    Some Knesset members voted against the racist law that prohibits Palestinians married to Israeli citizens to get citizenship (even if they were born in present-day Israel).
    Some Knesset members voted against the racist law to make visiting Israels neighbours, or importing books from these neighbours, a criminal offense for Israelis.
    Some Knesset members voted against the racist law to give an organization that prohibits selling land to the wrong ethnic group state land, or a voice in the State land authority
    Some Knesset members voted against the racist law that allows Israeli “communities” to bar Arab residents.
    Some Knesset members voted against the racist law that allows communities to reject members based on ethnicity
    Some Knesset members voted against the racist proposal to deny every single Arab party Knesset rapresentation.
    Some Knesset members would like to overturn measures such as the Absentee property law, which forbid people to return to the land they were born in because they are of the wrong race.
    But overwhelmingly most do not. Hence, saying “racist Knesset” is not too much of a stretch.

    • Mira Vogel Says:

      Luny, how can you even think about posting a list of slanted assertions like that without providing references? How does it help for us to have to go running around fact checking after your lazy muckspreading? Literally, you do yourself a discredit.

      • luny Says:

        Just a few examples of objectively racist laws passed by large Knesset majorities.
        Point being, of course anti-racist MKs exist. Azmi Bishara, Jamal Zahalka or Dov Khenin are certainly not racist, in the same way that Helen Suzman was a non-racist South African parlamentarian. But the institution itself, thats another matter.

  14. Karl Pfeifer Says:

    @hiny@ your approach is hypocritical. You imply, on one hand racist Israel on the other the innocent victims. But you seem to forget, that in Palestinian media already children are incited against Jew. Antisemitism is rampant in moderate pro-Western Egypt (home to the Protocols based anti-Semitic soap opera Rider without a Horse), secular Baathist Syria, conservative Wahhabite Saudi Arabia, and the Shiite fundamentalist Iran of the ayatollahs. This is an ideological anti-Zionism that seeks both the annihilation of Israel and a world “liberated from the Jews” – in other words, it is a totalist form of anti-Semitism. So what do your comrades about that?
    This is the environment Israel lives. And as far as emigration policy is concerned I could name several European countries with a similar legislation as Israel.
    And do not tell us, that Israel is a democracy and the Arab regimes are to a great extent tribal, feudal or dictatorial.
    Yes Israel is a democracy, but it does not want to commit suicide. Therefore you are defaming the Knesset.

  15. Ex UCU Says:

    Quite right Luny……………
    Let’s tell the Palestinians to hate the Jews even more because of the Holocaust, because there aren’t enough reaons already.
    Let’s revist the sins of the grandchildren on to the innocence of the grandparents.
    Let’s tell them that the Holocaust works to the Jews’ advantage.
    Let’s tell them that their misfortune is because the Jews had the good fortune to be chosen by the nazis to be wiped off the face of the earth.
    Let’s tell them that the Jews abuse the Holocaust to get what they want.
    Let’s tell them that the Jews continually blackmail the world to their own advantage.
    Let’s tell them, that their own statelessness and suffering is because of the Holocaust.

    Let’s just tell each to hate the other.
    Let’s keep telling them that what is now is forever and ever and ever.
    Let’s stoke the fires;
    Let each death of a Jew and a Palestinian be a feather in our caps.

    After all, that is so much better than dialogue, of supporting those parties and those individuals, Jews and Palestinians who, toghether and separately are working against the types of laws that have been passed.

    Hate is so much easier.

  16. Absolute Observer Says:

    I am afraid that the comparison with SA is wrong.

    Parliaments are not autonomous institutions but reflective of the society and state of which they are part.

    Now, of course, luny’s tautoolgy is that since Israel is a racist country, so too is it’s parliament.

    Fortunately, this is not the case. Israel is not a racist state (although, as with any society, racism is present, and, indeed, is reflected in some of its laws).

    However, it is not formalised however in the way luny implies. One need only look at eligibility of voting, who may sit in Parliament, etc. The laws he or she refers to are wrong and unjust. However, they are not “fundamental” as in the SA sense. They can be changed without a fundamental change in the constitution of Israel.

    False analogies are not very helpful (depending on one’s purpose, of course).

  17. NIMN Says:

    Once again, a discussion has been hijacked by an antizionist to make their point about the “racist” state of Israel.
    What a troll!

  18. Lynne T Says:

    luny shows significant ignorance by likening Azmi Bishara to a genuine anti-racist and democrat like Helen Suzman.

    [edit] Visits to Syria
    Bishara visited Syria in 2001, and gave a speech at a memorial ceremony for Syrian President Hafez al-Assad where he expressed support for Hezbollah. Upon his return to Israel, he was indicted and charged with incitement to violence and support for a terrorist organization, as defined by Israel’s Prevention of Terror Ordinance.[12] Bishara again visited Syria in September 2006, where he warned of the possibility that “Israel launch a preliminary offensive in more than one place, in a bid to overcome the internal crisis in the country and in an attempt to restore its deterrence capability.”[13] He and members of his party also visited Lebanon, where they told the Lebanese prime minister that Hizbullah’s resistance to Israel has “lifted the spirit of the Arab people”.[14] Soon thereafter at Interior Minister Roni “Bar-On’s request, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz ordered a criminal investigation be opened against Balad MKs Azmi Bashara, Jamal Zahalka and Wassel Taha over their recent visit to Syria”, as “[a]fter Bashara’s last trip in 2001, the Knesset passed a law forbidding MKs from visiting any enemy state.”[15]

    [edit] Resignation from Knesset and Suspicion of High Treason
    On April 22, 2007, Bishara resigned from the Knesset via the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, following a police investigation into his foreign contacts, and accusations of aiding the enemy during wartime, passing information on to the enemy and contacts with a foreign agent, as well as laundering money received from foreign sources.[16] He was said to be “considering staying abroad because he feared a long term jail sentence and an end to his political career.”[17] He also stated that he believed he wouldn’t receive a fair trial.[16]

    Following a petition by Haaretz and other media outlets to lift a gag order preventing publicization or publication of information relating to the specific charges being laid against Azmi Bishara, on May 2, 2007 the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court announced the gag order would be fully lifted. One week prior, the court had only allowed for the fact that Bishara is suspected of assisting the enemy in wartime, transmitting information to the enemy, contact with a foreign agent and money-laundering to be publicized.[18]

    Bishara is accused of giving Hizbullah information on strategic locations in Israel that should be attacked with rockets during the 2006 Lebanon War, in exchange for huge amounts of money. Wiretaps were authorized by the Israeli High Court of Justice. Investigators say that Bishara recommended long-range rocket attacks which would serve Hizbullah cause.[19]

    yeah, just like Helen Suzman:

  19. Thomas Venner Says:

    I think “luny” is using a different definition of “racism” here. To a die-hard “anti-Zionist”, the Israeli government will be considered racist so long as it is run by Jews. Only an Arab-dominated government will be accepted as “non-racist”, in the same way that Israel overall could only be considered to be “non-racist” if Jews returned to their proper place as a minority, with no self-determination, totally subject to the will of non-Jews.

  20. Martin Knutsen Says:

    Some of us would posit that Israel isnt so much a racist state as a bigoted state, where religion plays a larger role than race in the legal discrimination being done. Please notice the pardoning of the violent settlers from 2005, while the non-violent rotesters in E. Jerusalem keeps being arrested.

    When the law is not equal to all, then the state is approaching a form of fascism, and in Israel this seems to be entwined with religion. Its very sad to see these forces gaining power.

    • zkharya Says:

      Yeah, your BDS movement wants to dissolve the Jewish state, which is the object of the boycotters: good luck.

    • zkharya Says:

      ‘When the law is not equal to all’

      Israel was founded as the Jewish national home. That was the basis of Balfour, the League of Nations mandate and partition.

      Palestinian Muslims and Christians excluded Jews, to keep them to a tiny minority in the land, discriminated against them, tried to disposses and eliminate them.

      They thought it more important to deny Jews a state than acquire one themselves.

      Israel is no worse and arguably a great deal better than her neighbours, the P.A. and Hamasstan and the Palestinian Muslim and Christian national movement that bore them both.

      The matters of settlements and East Jerusalem will have to be decided at negotiations, that’s it.

    • zkharya Says:

      ‘Some of us would posit that Israel isnt so much a racist state as a bigoted state, where religion plays a larger role than race in the legal discrimination being done.’

      Yeah, what’s odd is your unique fascination with and desire to dissolve the one Jewish state in the world. Umpteen Arab and Islamic ones don’t interest you in the slightest.

  21. Absolute Observer Says:

    Yes, the secularist appear to be losing the battle in Israel; and it’s something that one hopes to see reversed.
    However, tossing the word “fascism” around does not help. It both says too much whilst at the same time concealing too much.
    After all, in the UK one can make a comparison between the treatment of different political positions and the protests in which they are articulated, but, that does not mean the UK is “fascist”. (Note the treatment of those protesting in Luton against the war in Iraq – hardly the model of liberalism).

    So, whilst the Israeli government is exhibiting political bigotry – as is the habit of the right everywhere – it does not mean that the State of Israel is itself a “bigoted” state, mush less a “fascist” state.

    Indeed, as the article linked to suggests, the Left is Israel is not faring any much better than the left in any other part of the world.
    It is a pity, though, that so much of the left in Europe and elsewhere are spending so much time denouncing Israel when, at one and the same time, the Israeli left needs as much help and solidarity as it can muster, but is met with nothing but hostility and hatred.

    As to the use of the term “race”, it is an essentially meaningless term in relation to Israel, despite the use of the word “racist” that some wishes to apply it.

    However, why this discussion should be taking place in this thread is a bit of a puzzle.

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      Probably, AO, because Martin Knutsen was looking for somewhere to make this statement and just put it here. This doesn’t necessarily make it relevant to this thread (or the article to which the thread is attached), of course, just convenient. But then those wishing to label Israel as different to all other nation states will use whatever means and channels are available.

      It also matters not that the criticisms that Knutsen makes are no different to those the rest of make (those of us on the Left, at least), except that we tend to be a lot more nuanced and to be wary about throwing lables like “fascist” around. For reasons that are not relevant here, I (more than) once argued that the Thatcher government was pretty authoritarian – just like the Netanyahu government(s) in fact – (note only Thatcherism’s determined attacks on trade union rights), but that hardly made it fascist or even fascistic.

      One should be very wary of the labels one attaches to people, movements and governments. Something the UK (and other) left anti-Zionists would do well to learn.

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