Joint List party leader Aymen Odeh on Monday doubled down on his call to Arab Israelis not to serve in the security forces operating in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, now also calling on Jewish Israelis to refuse to do so.
Odeh caused outrage on Sunday when he said Arab Israelis serving in the security forces in the West Bank and East Jerusalem were “humiliating” their own people and called on them to throw down their weapons and quit.
Odeh, in a Ramadan video posted from the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City, also said his ultimate goal was to see the Palestinian flag flying over Jerusalem.
Odeh’s remarks specifically referred to Arabs serving in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which have seen high tensions in recent weeks, not those serving as police inside the pre-1967 borders.
The lawmaker’s comments nonetheless sparked calls to investigate him for inciting violence as Israel is facing the deadliest wave of terror attacks in years.
Speaking to Channel 12 on Monday, Odeh refused to apologize and extended his call to Jewish Israelis.
“Don’t serve in the occupation forces, don’t kill,” he said.
Odeh also denied that he called on Arab Israelis to quit the police. “I never mentioned the word police at all,” he said.
A significant portion of security forces in East Jerusalem are police.
“I actually see Israelis with us in the fight against the occupation and for peace,” he said. “We need peace and there is no way to do so without ending the occupation and establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel.”
Odeh’s comments were backed by fellow Joint List MK Sami Abou Shehadeh, who told Channel 12 that “everyone who is part of the occupation army needs to be embarrassed. It is an embarrassment. Israel is running an apartheid regime and carrying out crimes against humanity.
“I want to take this opportunity to support what Odeh said. This is our historic position, nothing is new here,” Abou Shehadeh said.
In his video message Sunday, Odeh said: “Recently, I have met with many groups from occupied Arab Jerusalem. Young Palestinians with Israeli citizenship have told me that they are being harmed and humiliated. It is important for me to tell you from here, the Damascus Gate, that it is a humiliation for one of our sons to join the security forces,” Odeh said in a video posted to his Facebook page.
Damascus Gate has been the scene of near-daily clashes between Palestinians and the Israel Police since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Odeh said Arab Israelis who join the Israeli security forces were “humiliating our people, humiliating our families and humiliating everyone who comes to pray in the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
A spokesperson for Odeh later emphasized that the lawmaker’s remarks referred exclusively to those serving in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as opposed to police inside the Green Line, the 1948 ceasefire line between Israel and neighboring Arab states.
“This is our usual position against the Arabs joining the occupation forces beyond the Green Line,” she said.
Odeh’s comments drew outrage from many and Hebrew media reported that the police had asked the attorney general for an opinion on whether his remarks warranted opening an investigation into incitement to violence.
Several MKs in the opposition Likud party also called for Odeh to be investigated, while Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked on Monday rejected any possibility that the wobbling coalition could partner with Odeh’s party.
“Ayman Odeh incites against the State of Israel and its institutions. We won’t make agreements with him. His place is outside Israel’s Knesset,” Shaked tweeted.
Odeh was also attacked by left-wing coalition politicians, with Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan of the Meretz party saying Odeh’s comments “mainly hurt the public he is trying to represent.”
Golan said that “Odeh hasn’t learned anything from [Ra’am’s Mansour] Abbas. The first thing you need to do is embrace the partnership and become a partner in the coalition, to create an opposite momentum to the continued neglect [of the Arab community] led by right-wing governments, to strengthen the integration of Arab Israeli citizens within Israeli society.”
He continued: “Apparently, Odeh is determined not to support this government, not from outside or from inside. He rejects it completely, which is a form of political blindness and blindness toward the public.”