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Palestinian MK blasts Jewish Nation State law in NY synagogue

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In her first address in an American synagogue since becoming a Member of the Knesset, Aida Touma-Sliman ripped into the new Jewish Nation State Law, which she said normalized discrimination and Jewish supremacy, and finally dispensed with equality as a normative value of Israel.

Handling a few hostile questions with aplomb, this inspiring Palestinian feminist, journalist and politician won plaudits from the audience at Temple Israel of New Rochelle (PDF) on Sunday evening, even as she told them that the passage of this Basic Law was “the first moment of the Israeli Apartheid regime.”

Born into a Christian Arab family in Nazareth, with a degree in psychology and Arabic literature from the University of Haifa, Touma-Sliman was a founder of the Arab feminist group Women Against Violence, working with battered women.  Upon her election to the Knesset in 2015, she was the first female Arab MK appointed to chair a Knesset committee, here the Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality.

She has two daughters, one of whom, she said Sunday, married a Dutchman.  Her grandchildren, born in Israel, are automatic citizens of the Netherlands, but not citizens in Israel, where they were born and their mother was born. “I meet a lot of Jews back home who say we need a Jewish State as an insurance policy, in case something goes wrong,” she said.  “But why should I pay the price of your insurance policy?” Israel, she said, takes on responsibility for Jewish citizens of other states and neglects its own non-Jewish citizens and residents. In the last 70 years, 700 Jewish settlements were built; 0 for Arabs. “We can’t buy houses in many of these settlements.”  Under Article 7 of this new Basic Law, she said, development of Jewish settlements is a national value. “It is like saying, in the United States, that White development is a national value. Equality is no longer the value of the State.”

There is no mention, she noted, of “democracy” or “democratic” in the Basic Law, which “put an end to balance” between “Jewish” and “Democratic” in the description “Jewish and Democratic State” that Jewish Israelis often proudly ascribe to themselves.

Early in the question period that followed her talk, Touma-Sliman was confronted by a man who described himself as an American Jew whose family members went to the concentration camps. He asked why Palestinians “feel they have a right to gain something from the Israelis every time they lose a war?”  Don’t the spoils belong to the victors?

Her answer:  “If you mean, by Palestinians losing the wars, that nations or peoples who lose wars do not deserve to struggle and demand to live as human beings, then you would have paid a very high price as Jews, because what happened to you as Jewish people, should put you in a situation of more tolerance and more sympathy and understanding for the suffering of other people, especially when they are suffering under occupation.”   

When asked about her own future in the Knesset, Touma-Sliman said that she and other Arabs may not be members for long, citing the Suspension Law which permits a member to be suspended if a majority of MKs vote to do so.  “While the Supreme Court has put limits on the law, that court is changing, with three settlers with ultra right-wing backgrounds” having been newly appointed to serve on the Supreme Court. She was referring to May 2018 decision unanimously upholding a July 2016 amendment to the Basic Law on the Knesset, allowing 90 lawmakers to remove a sitting member of the Knesset if they believe his or her actions incite to racism, reflect support for armed struggle against the state or for a terror organization, but cautioning that “the expulsion authority” cannot be used “except in the most extreme of exceptional circumstances.” 

Touma-Sliman was then asked about her views about the Two State Solution.  Since she was the first female member of the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, which in 2006 published a manifesto called The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel, which called for Israel to change from a Jewish state that privileges its Jewish majority into a state of all its citizens, it was surprising to hear her say that she now believes that, while the Two State Solution is “fading out,” it is still preferable to the likely One State Solution that would continue to privilege Jews and discriminate against and oppress Palestinians.  Yes, she said, the ideal would be a One State Solution that offers complete democracy, but the bad blood that afflicts the two peoples suggests that “the One State Solution will not be our dream,” as it will not provide “the right of self-determination that we believe in.”

Touma-Sliman has a lot to say, and leaves her listeners with a lot to think about.  We need more Palestinian voices like hers speaking to more Jewish congregations, here and around the world.

Thanks to Howard Horowitz

Robert Herbst

Robert Herbst is a civil rights lawyer. He was chapter coordinator for Westchester Jewish Voice for Peace from 2014-2017,

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5 Responses

  1. Maghlawatan on August 21, 2018, 4:36 pm

    A very impressive lady. What marks the Palestinian MKs out compared to the Jewish bots beside them is their intellectual freedom. They don’t groupthink nonsense as Jewish politicians do.

  2. Nathan on August 22, 2018, 10:43 am

    The author expresses “surprise” that MK Touma-Sliman prefers the “Two-State Solution” over the “One-State Solution”. Actually, there is no reason for surprise at all. If she is a supporter of “The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel”, then obviously MK Touma-Sliman should support the “Two-State Solution” as it has been re-defined by the Palestinians.

    In the original two-state proposal, the two states were supposed to be an Arab state and a Jewish state in Palestine (the 1947 Partition Plan). Today, when the two-state idea is discussed, it is self-evident that we are talking about a future Palestinian state (the Arab state) and the existing State of Israel (the Jewish state). However, the Palestinian community is incapable of accepting a Jewish state, although they are interested in the founding of the Arab state. So, the solution proposed by “The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel” is that a Palestinian state will be founded in the West Bank and Gaza (the Arab state of the two-state solution), but the other state of the two-state solution will just be the other state (not the Jewish state). Perhaps, the other state will be called “Israel”, but it will not be the existing State of Israel (a Jewish state).

    It sounds reasonable, because supporting a two-state solution is regarded to be mainstream, moderate and fair. However, the essence of “The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel” is the absolute rejection of the two-state solution (an Arab state and a Jewish state in Palestine). It’s quite clever, actually. You can claim that you prefer the two-state solution (and win the applause of your listeners) while in reality you reject the plan altogether. Similarly, you can claim that you do not call for the demise of Israel (and therefore you sound like a moderate, reasonable person) because the “other state” of the two-state solution might be called “Israel” – but in reality you are calling for the demise of Israel (the end of the Jewish state).

    It’s important to note the reason that MK Touma-Sliman doesn’t like the One-State Solution: “the One State Solution will not be our dream,” as it will not provide “the right of self-determination that we believe in.” In the case of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, the right of Palestinian self-determination will be fulfilled, but in her view a state together with the Jews would not express Palestinian self-determination. So, she prefers the re-defined two-state solution, in which the one state expresses Palestinian self-determination, and the other state is just the other state in which no one expresses self-determination. The unspoken message, therefore, is that the Palestinians have the right of self-determination, but the Jews don’t.

    The author was surprised by the position of MK Touma-Sliman, but actually there is nothing new in her presentation. Her unspoken message is at the very heart of this conflict for over 100 years.

    • GusCall on October 22, 2018, 6:17 am

      Aida Touma was indeed one of the 38 intellectuals, all Palestinians in Israel, who wrote the 2006 ‘Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel’. 99% of that influential document addresses only the status and role of the Palestinians in Israel (at most 15% of all Palestinians). It does contain a vague call for right of return as well as the desire of “reaching peace through the declaration of an independent Palestinian state.”But since this “Palestinian state” could claim sovereignty, now or eventually, over all of historic Palestine (as in the pre-1988 vision of the PLO and PNC), even this ambiguous passage cannot be seen – contrary to Nathan’s opinion – as support for any two-state solution.
      Later as well, the document calls the two-state post-Oslo period the “stage of setback” marked by “Arab Palestinian lack of sense of unity”. Further support for the ‘One’ in One Democratic State comes when the document identifies “Historic Palestine” as the Palestinian “homeland and unifying element between all even though this homeland is occupied.” That is, all of Palestine is occupied, not just the areas occupied in 1967, and Palestine is not just the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
      Nathan is correct that the Future Vision document and Aida Touma-Sliman today as an MK are in effect advocating the end of the Jewish state. (No need to use the loaded term “demise”, Nathan.) Her vision of an Israel where all citizens are absolutely equal is indeed that of a state of its citizens, not of Jews, or any other ethno-religious group for that matter, as most clearly articulated by the National Democratic Assembly, a rival of Touma’s Hadash party within the Joint List. So yes, she supports a starkly revised two-state solution where one state is “Palestinian” and the other is simply democratic, with no privileges for Jews or Arabs.
      I too am worried by Touma’s reliance on the idea of “the right of self-determination we believe in.” First, there are many different Palestinian visions of their self-determination, so Touma can only speak for herself or at most her Party. Second, she seems to have a vision of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with no Jews at all! This contradicts the vision of One Democratic State, where all citizens of Palestine could live anywhere in historic Palestine. It is also ironic that even the Future Vision, when it comes down to it, is against the Partition of Palestine.

  3. Dmix on August 22, 2018, 12:34 pm

    This is what I got from Aida in a personal conversation that followed. It boils down to two questions: (1) what are your human moral values, and (2) do you want peace?

    The Jewish values, and I therefore assume also Israeli, were stated nicely by Rabbi Hillel (1 BCE): “That which is hateful unto you do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole of the Torah, The rest is commentary.”

    As for wanting peace — Aida believes that (at least?) 60% of Jewish Israelis want peace. I did not ask, but see no reason why both values and wanting peace are different in the Plaestenian and Arab communities.

    If one really (I mean *really*) wants peace — the rest become implementation details.

    Then the discussion became — so why are we not moving towards peace if the majority of population on both sides want it? To me, this raises questions about the government and democracy on both sides — are they representing the will of their people or are there (very) different forces in play?

  4. just on August 23, 2018, 12:43 pm

    “Nation-state Law Requires International Intervention, Israeli-Arab Lawmaker Tells UN Rep …

    Israeli lawmaker Aida Touma-Sliman met with UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs in New York on Thursday to try to advance international action against the nation-state law.

    “The law makes Israel an official apartheid state even within the Green Line, so it is not an internal Israeli matter, but rather a law that requires strong and urgent intervention by the international community and the UN,” Touma-Sliman, who is a Knesset member from the Joint List party, said.

    The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on minority issues recently announced in response to a Joint List petition that he intends to examine the possibility of launching an investigation against the law. Touma-Sliman asked the Under-Secretary-General Rosemary Dicarlo to advance the issue. …”

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