At J Street confab, top Arab MK takes aim at Israel’s ‘unreliable’ Labor Party
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Trump and Netanyahu use 'language of fear and a slow-burning hate... turning us against one another'

At J Street confab, top Arab MK takes aim at Israel’s ‘unreliable’ Labor Party

Ayman Odeh says Isaac Herzog’s center-left faction is ‘no opposition at all’ to right-wing government, failing to protect civil society

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

Joint List MK Ayman Odeh speaks to the J Street Annual Conference in Washington, February 26, 2017. (YouTube screen capture)
Joint List MK Ayman Odeh speaks to the J Street Annual Conference in Washington, February 26, 2017. (YouTube screen capture)

WASHINGTON — Arab Joint List leader MK Ayman Odeh denounced the Israeli Labor Party in biting terms Sunday, accusing it at a conference of dovish pro-Israel lobby J Street of betraying its principles and failing to stand up to the country’s right-wing coalition government.

He called on the American Jewish left to form a coalition with his own political union of Arab-majority and non-Zionist parties.

“You showed up today because we know we cannot rely on the opposition we have, the one that is ready to sell out our values in exchange for power,” he told a crowd gathered for J Street’s 2017 National Conference in the Washington Convention Center Sunday evening.

Odeh accused the Labor Party, now a part of the Zionist Union Knesset faction, of failing to oppose the court-ordered demolition of Bedouin village in Umm al-Hiran, the scene of a deadly incident on January 18 in which a local resident and a police officer were killed as security forces secured the area ahead of the razings.

Odeh, who leads the Hadash party within the Joint List faction, was at Umm al-Hiran that day along with other Arab lawmakers and was lightly injured when he was apparently hit by rubber bullets fired by police.

“The Labor Party did nothing to stop the order to destroy Umm al-Hiran and leave its residents homeless,” he said. “It has abandoned the human rights organizations and civil society groups that the right-wing parties attack. And it has failed to provide any real leadership toward ending the occupation and resisting the extremist agenda of the right-wing government.”

He went on: “They have called themselves the ‘Zionist camp.’ The right-wing calls itself the ‘national camp.’ We, Arabs and Jews together, are building a new camp, a democratic camp, that has already begun to show the world what real, principled, and strong opposition looked like.”

“This is the time for a real opposition, principled, fearless,” he said. “An opposition led by a Labor party that is a shadow of the right is no opposition at all.”

The lawmaker also sought to link Netanyahu with US President Donald Trump — both of whom are intensely unpopular with his audience.

“In Israel, around the world, and here in the United States, those who sit in the halls of power care only about their own power,” he accused.

“Trump and Netanyahu have cemented their power in the same way regimes have throughout history: with the language of fear and a slow-burning hate, by turning us against one another instead of reminding-us of our shared values and our mutual interests.”

J Street’s sixth national conference, which runs from February 26-28, will host a number of prominent Democrats on Monday, including numerous members of Congress like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and California Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

Vice President Mike Pence, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson were invited but did not respond, the group said.

Then-secretary of state John Kerry and then-vice president Joe Biden spoke at last year’s conference.

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