Top Arab MK charges Israelis show contempt for Palestinian life

Joint List head Ayman Odeh says Jerusalem ‘closed Gaza up and threw the key into the sea,’ claims Hamas is ‘under occupation’

Joint (Arab) List leader Ayman Odeh leads a faction meeting in the Knesset in Jerusalem on October 31, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Joint (Arab) List leader Ayman Odeh leads a faction meeting in the Knesset in Jerusalem on October 31, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Israelis see Palestinian life as cheap and any form of Palestinian protest as “illegitimate,” the head of the Joint (Arab) List party charged in an interview Monday.

MK Ayman Odeh, speaking on Channel 10’s morning program about Friday’s violence on the Gaza border, said, “Look at how the Israeli public views [those] people killed only three days ago. That is contempt for human life.”

He alleged there was no form of Palestinian protest that was considered acceptable by Israelis.

“If it is with weapons it is illegitimate. And if it is without weapons it is also illegitimate,” he lamented.

The lawmaker denied Israeli claims that Hamas was behind the demonstration, saying the terror group had simply joined it along with various other organizations.

MK Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint (Arab) List, speaks on Channel 10 on April 2, 2018. (Screen capture: Channel 10)

While stressing that he did not support Hamas’s policies, he said the group, which rules the Gaza Strip, was “under occupation.” “The problem,” he said, “is the occupying state” — Israel.

Around 30,000 people took part in Friday’s mass Gazan march to the border fence. Odeh said the military response to protests should have been far more measured.

“The army drew up this imaginary line and whoever crosses it — kill them. Period. Is that the only way to address this matter?”

Odeh also said Israel, which control’s Gaza’s border and coast, was ultimately responsible for Gazans’ desperation. “They closed Gaza, threw the key into the sea and said ‘We’re not responsible.'”

Odeh warned that Israelis could not expect quiet in the coastal enclave before comprehensive peace was achieved. He said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was a pragmatic leader who sought peace but was met with Israeli right-wing intransigence.

The Israel Defense Forces said Saturday that at least 10 of those killed were members of Palestinian terror groups, including Hamas, and gave details of their roles.

There were discrepancies in Palestinian reports on the Gaza death toll. While Hamas claimed Monday that 18 had died, the official news agency of the Palestinian Authority had the number at 16. Israel has no official death toll numbers.

As of Saturday evening, Hamas, a terrorist group that openly seeks to destroy Israel, itself acknowledged that five of the dead in the so-called “March of Return” were its own gunmen.

According to the army, in keeping with its rules of engagement, the Palestinians who were shot Friday were either attacking IDF soldiers with stones and Molotov cocktails, were actively trying to damage the security fence, or were attempting to place improvised explosive devices along the security fence, which could later be used in attacks against Israeli patrols.

A Palestinian protester hurls stones toward Israeli soldiers during a demonstration along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City on March 31, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

Further mass protests against Israel are planned for this Friday and future weeks until mid-May, when Israel marks its 70th Independence Day and the Palestinians mark what they call Nakba Day — the “catastrophe” caused by Israel’s creation.

Odeh was challenged by the hosts of the show on his claim that the protests on the Gaza border were peaceful. Asked how he would expect the army to respond when thousands of people attempted to breach the border, Odeh said that the only solution was peace talks leading to a two-state solution.

He declined to answer directly on whether Hamas would accept such a peace deal or whether Abbas could claim to represent the people of Gaza, a territory he does not control.

Odeh similarly refused to answer another panelist who pointed out that Israel stopped occupying Gaza in 2005 when it unilaterally disengaged from the coastal enclave.

In a statement Sunday, Odeh’s party, the Joint List, condemned the IDF’s actions.

“The fire against the protesters again proves that Israel chooses a path of force and deliberate violence,” said the party in a statement. “All nations that have been under occupation fought against their occupiers, and the Palestinian nation is like any other nation.”

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