'Current Arab parties, representatives should be outlawed'

Smotrich calls for ban on Arab parties, says Arab citizens could commit massacres

Far-right Religious Zionism leader invokes fears of ‘thousands of armed rioters’ attacking Jews, claims nationalist elements in Arab society are Israel’s ‘biggest security threat’

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Religious Zionism Party leader MK Bezalel Smotrich speaking at a conference of the International Institute for Counter Terrorism, September 12, 2022. (Courtesy)
Religious Zionism Party leader MK Bezalel Smotrich speaking at a conference of the International Institute for Counter Terrorism, September 12, 2022. (Courtesy)

The leader of the ultranationalist Religious Zionism party, MK Bezalel Smotrich, called on Monday for a ban on Israel’s Arab political parties and stirred up fears of “massacres” by “thousands of Arab rioters” during wartime.

Speaking at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism at Reichman University in Herzliya, Smotrich said the biggest security threat to the State of Israel was “the threat at home from nationalist elements among Arab Israelis,” and claimed that the threat of widespread massacres by Arab citizens was “a more realistic scenario than ever.”

The leader of the far-right party was condemned over his comments by members of the Arab Joint List party, with MK Aida Touma-Sliman calling him a “racist Jewish supremacist” and MK Ahmad Tibi saying his remarks portended a “dystopian scenario” for the State of Israel.

During his address at the institute, Smotrich, a former transportation minister, described “hundreds of thousands of illegal weapons being directed at the moment of truth against Israeli citizens.”

He also evoked images of “thousands of Arab rioters, equipped with the best weapons, descending on the towns and cities of Israel and carrying out huge massacres at a time when Israel’s security forces are stretched to the limit on multiple war fronts.”

Smotrich said that a first step toward coping with such a “threat” would be to outlaw the Arab political parties.

“The most dangerous security threat to the State of Israel today is the threat at home by nationalist elements among the Arabs of Israel.” As a first step to tackling this, he said, “the current Arab parties and their representatives should be outlawed, for they are the first to lead the hostile discourse against the State of Israel, its right to exist and its definition as an independent, sovereign Jewish state.”

MK Bezalel Smotrich argues with Deputy Knesset Speaker MK Ahmad Tibi during a debate and vote on the ‘Bereaved Brothers Law,’ in the Knesset plenum, June 1, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“In the next government, which we will establish, God willing, after the elections, we will change the mechanism for banning [political parties] and remove it from the hands of the High Court of Justice, in a way that will not allow the justices of the High Court to ignore the wording of the law and the intentions of the legislature,” declared Smotrich.

He claimed that the Arab parties support armed struggle against the State of Israel and therefore violate the terms of the Basic Law: the Knesset, and accused in particular the leader of the Ra’am party, coalition member MK Mansour Abbas, of contravening this law.

“The concealment efforts led by Mansour Abbas in the old and well-known method of the Islamic movement camouflage radical, extremist Islamist nationalism, which seeks to destroy the State of Israel and replace it with one big Islamic caliphate,” claimed Smotrich.

In condemning Smotrich’s remarks, the Joint List’s Tibi said that should the former minister return to power together with his political partner and fellow ultranationalist MK Itamar Ben Gvir, Arabs would lose their political representation.

“That would be just the beginning. What was once a twisted dystopian scenario is likely to soon become the reality of life in the State of Israel,” said Tibi, whose party would be in Smotrich’s crosshairs.

MK Aida Touma-Sliman of the Joint (Arab) List speaks at the party’s Hebrew-language campaign launch in Tel Aviv, August 20, 2019. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Touma-Sliman also condemned the former minister’s remarks, but said she and her colleagues would continue to work for their electorate.

“The real danger to democracy are racist Jewish supremacists like Smotrich and his fellow party members, who have been convicted for violence and inciting terrorism,” said Touma-Sliman.

“We at the Joint List will continue to proudly serve Israel’s Palestinian citizens and all true democrats who stand against the occupation and believe in peace and equality for all.”

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