Balad party chairman MK Jamal Zahalka said Wednesday that the Palestinian “struggle for national liberation” was not terrorism but rather “a just struggle to right a historical wrong.”
Addressing the Knesset plenum, Zahalka expressed support for Arab MKs who have come under attack for refusing to characterize the kidnapping of three Israeli teens in the West Bank as a terror act, and the group said to be responsible, Hamas, a terror organization.
While he did not name any specific group or action, Zahalka said Israeli media were “reveling” in recent days in branding Palestinian actions as terrorism.
“We will not agree to have a struggle for national liberation labeled as terrorism,” Zahalka said. “We will not make compromises with the occupation… we will tell them the truth, which is our historic obligation.”
“Do whatever you want — banish us from the Knesset, hang us — we will not give in on this issue,” he said. “To slander the just struggle to right a historical wrong; to save people from the depths of suffering and despair, of victimhood; to live normal lives — we will not commit this treason.”
Zahalka did not condemn outright the use of violence in the Palestinian struggle, saying only that “yes, we do want this struggle to be conducted under the limits of morality and sensibility. Sometimes mistakes are made and we say these are mistakes.
“But on the whole it is a struggle for national liberation and not terrorism as the Israeli media is reveling [in calling it] in recent days.”
Tensions between Jewish and Arab members of Knesset have run high recently, with the latter attacked for their reluctance to call Hamas a terror organization, as do the US and the European Union.
Meanwhile the Israeli public, rattled by the abduction, has shown little patience for such attitudes.
MK Hanin Zoabi, also of Zahalka’s Balad party, has faced severe public backlash for her statements last week that the kidnappers were “not terrorists” but rather “people who do not see any way of changing their situation and they have to resort to these measures until Israel sobers up.”
On Tuesday MK Afu Agbaria (Hadash) argued that Hamas was not a terror group, but a “liberation organization.” In an interview on the Knesset Channel, the Arab MK insisted Israel was to blame for rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, and said there was no difference between an Israeli woman widowed by a Palestinian terrorist and Palestinian women whose husbands were killed by Israeli actions.
Agbaria stressed that “no one is condoning murder. Not of any person. I denounce murder on either side.”
Since the June 12 kidnapping of Eyal Yifrach, 19, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and Gil-ad Shaar, 16, the IDF has been conducting a sweeping operation in the West Bank that has resulted in the arrest of over 350 Palestinians, a majority of them members of Hamas. Four Palestinians have been killed in clashes related to the operation.