Likud MK to Arab lawmaker: The Jews are a ‘special race’

Miki Zohar later denies he endorsed ‘Jewish supremacy’ but touts the Jewish people’s ‘unparalleled uniqueness’

Likud MK and chairman of the Knesset Regulatory Committee Miki Zohar at the Knesset, September 9, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)
Likud MK and chairman of the Knesset Regulatory Committee Miki Zohar at the Knesset, September 9, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

A Likud party lawmaker on Monday told an Arab MK that the Jewish people are a “special race” and that the latter could not “preach morals” to him because he was opposed to Jewish statehood.

The exchange between Likud MK Miki Zohar and Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi came during a Knesset Regulatory Committee meeting to debate bringing before Knesset a controversial bill that would allow representatives from political parties to film activities inside polling stations on election day. At the end of the debate, the committee did not approve the bill for a Knesset reading, leaving the legislation without an immediate path to become law before the election.

Zohar, who chaired the committee, told Tibi: “The Jewish race is a special race and I am glad to be part of it. If you don’t like it, deal with it.”

“You can’t preach morals to us because you are anti-Zionists, against the principle of the Jewish state,” he said to Tibi, who had apparently challenged Zohar over similar remarks he made last year about the supremacy of the “Jewish race.”

Tibi, a veteran Arab lawmaker for the Joint List, spoke out against the so-called Camera Bill, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party were pushing to legislate before next week’s national election.

“Once, the prime minister said that the Arabs are ‘voting in droves,'” Tibi said, referring to inflammatory remarks Netanyahu made on election day in 2015, for which the prime minister later apologized.

“Today he’s translating that into an anti-Semitic statement — that the Arabs are stealing the elections,” Tibi said. “Imagine if in France they said that the Jews are stealing the elections.

“We will not accept oversight by Netanyahu’s phalanges, only by the Central Elections Committee,” Tibi continued, using a phrase for armed militia groups.

Zohar subsequently told Channel 12 his comments had been misrepresented and stressed that he had not said anything about “the superiority of the Jewish race.”

But, he said, “Unequivocally what flows in the DNA of the Jewish people is something special.”

He went on: “What I said, and I still stand by my words, is that the Jewish people are special — they have an unparalleled uniqueness. They are a smart, successful people that demonstrated how in 60 years it is possible to take a country from nothing and turn it into an empire.”

In a separate incident last June, Zohar said that the “Jewish race” is the smartest in the world and possessing of the “highest human capital.” As with Monday’s comments, his assertions led to a spat with Tibi, who noted Nazi Germany’s treatment of Jews as a race during the Holocaust.

“You can’t fool the Jews, no matter what is the media writes. The public in Israel is a public that belongs to the Jewish race, and the entire Jewish race is the highest human capital, the smartest, the most comprehending,” Zohar said at the time, prompting Tibi to tweet a picture of Zohar with the message: “An elected official in ‘the Jewish state’ presents: race theory.”

Arab Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi at a hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on petitions to disqualify his party from running in the September 2019 elections, on August 22, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu’s cabinet on Sunday had unanimously approved the legislation to allow party representatives to bring cameras into polling stations on September 17, despite staunch opposition from the attorney general, the Central Elections Committee, and the Knesset’s legal adviser.

In the committee vote Monday on a motion to shorten the normal legislative process so that the bill would not have to wait the usual 45 days before a Knesset vote, MKs were tied 12-12, with Yisrael Beytenu lawmakers voting against it, stymieing the proposal and preventing it from facing a scheduled first reading in the plenum later in the day.

Netanyahu insists the legislation is only intended to prevent voter fraud, but critics say it’s an attempt to intimidate Arab voters ahead of the September 17 poll.

The bill would allow poll watchers from competing political parties to bring cameras into polling stations during the upcoming elections. Netanyahu and Likud have repeatedly said in recent days that alleged voter fraud in April elections — particularly votes for the Arab Balad party — “stole” from them the ability to form a majority coalition.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, far left, and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, far right, attend the weekly cabinet meeting, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on September 8, 2019. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL/Flash90)

During the April 9 vote, Likud equipped some 1,200 polling officials at ballot stations in Arab population centers with hidden body cameras to prevent what the party claims was rampant fraud in the community.

Critics charged that Likud’s efforts were a form of voter intimidation designed to keep the non-Jewish minority from the polls, a claim seemingly corroborated by the company contracted by Likud to carry out the operation.

Netanyahu was unable to form a ruling majority after the April elections largely because Avigdor Liberman refused to bring his Yisrael Beytenu party into the proposed government, citing an impasse with ultra-Orthodox parties. Likud accused Liberman of deliberately thwarting the coalition efforts for his own political purposes.

Netanyahu dissolved parliament and called fresh elections for September 17.

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