Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The ungrateful

In November 1949, Israeli soldiers conducted extensive searches in several Arab villages - at the time under military government. The villagers complained of brutal treatment by the soldiers, and these complaints were voiced on the Knesset floor by KM Tawfik Toubi.

Many of Toubi's Jewish colleagues disliked hearing such things in the Knesset, and gave a public vent to their irritation. Some said "He should be grateful for being allowed to be a Knesset Member at all".

On November 18, 1949, poet Nathan Alterman published in the labor daily "Davar" a poem which made quite a stir, "The rebuke to Tawfik Toubi".

"Well, who is Tawfik Toubi? A Member of the Knesset.
A Communist, an Arab. In the parliament
He is by full right, not by anybody's favour...
Perhaps the time had come to remember this, my friends.
He owes us no debt for the greatness of our hearts.
His presence in the House is by the law
By basic principle
It is elementary.
No! Parliament should not raise its hand
Again and again try to divorce him.

62 years later

Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi is outspokenly opposed to the siege which the State of Israel imposes a on a million and half residents of the Gaza Strip - in which she undoubtedly expresses the wishes of her voters. To express this position, KM Zoabi joined the flotilla which set out to break the siege and bring humanitarian aid to the residents of Gaza. This flotilla was attacked by the State of Israel's naval commandos, who killed nine Turkish passengers in circumstances which are soon likely to be the subject of an international investigation.

MK Zoabi herself was at a lower deck while these traumatic events took place. Later on she – at the request of the commando officers who took over the boat – convinced wounded passengers to leave cabins where they barricaded themselves and be taken to medical treatment in Israel.

For the crime of having participated in this flotilla, KM Hanin Zoabi has come under an offensive more severe than any of the dozens of earlier attacks on Arab Knesset Members during Israel's six decades of existence. She suffered a physical assault on the Knesset floor itself, and the Interior Minister made an impassioned plea to the Attorney General to find a legal way of depriving her of Israeli citizenship.

The Knesset House Committee constituted itself a special Summary Court, and convened to try KM Zoabi and deprive her of parliamentary privileges. With KM Yariv Levin doubling as Chief Judge and Chief Prosecutor, the pre-determined verdict was approved. The overwhelming majority included also the representatives of the Kadima Party from the "opposition".

Where is Nathan Alterman of the year 2010?