Knesset Member Jamal Zahalka of the Joint (Arab) List accused Zionist Union MK Stav Shaffir of racism on Monday, saying her party’s “quiet” bigotry was worse than that of far-right politicians.
The Knesset was in fact convened to discuss the government’s controversial natural gas deal opposed by the left, but rumors that the ruling Likud party had cut a deal with Arab lawmakers to ensure their support in the vote led to tensions between the opposition’s Zionist Union and Joint List.
Shafir specifically had warned in recent days of a possible pact being in the works, by which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu allegedly promised higher budgets to the Arab sector in return for Arab support of the gas bill. The Joint List eventually opposed the bill.
Speaking from the podium during the deliberations, Zahalkha cautioned Shafir and other leftist lawmakers not to lecture Arabs, saying the Zionist Union’s Labor party had done far more damage to Arabs than the right-wing Likud.
He said Labor had been responsible over the years for the expulsion and “murder” of thousands of Palestinians.
“Likud built settlements beside Arab towns,” he said. “You built your Kibbutzim, your socialism on the ruins of our lands. You come and talk of social justice, of leftism, you roll your eyes and piss on us in the name of tolerance and morals.”
Shafir, he said, “has never spoken a word to me. She won’t even say hello to me. I’m invisible to her. Arabs don’t exist (to her). Racist!” He accused the MK of a “quiet racism,” a racism of disregard.
Shafir interjected at this point, asking when she had ignored the Arab lawmaker.
“Ever since you entered the Knesset you’ve never spoken to me!” Zahalkha shot at her.
“The extreme right are at least amicable, they say hello and smile to you,” he said. “Even the people of Yisrael Beytenu smile at us. But Labor are the worst racists. You invented racism.”
Shafir simply shook her head at the accusations. She told the media she would address Zahalka’s claims at a later time, and added that she was currently focused on the issue at hand — that of Israel’s natural gas reserves.