The Palestinian Leadership’s Double Standard
Posted Thu, Jan 14, 2010

Knesset member Dr. Jamal Zahalka, head of the Balad party, recently published an article bemoaning the increase in the number of murders committed in the Israeli Arab sector, 64 of the 121 murders committed in Israel in 2009. He said they were the result of feuds, gang wars, “honor killings” and fights. As for a solution, he said that “the most urgent need is to exert political and popular pressure on the police to make them carry out their duty to prevent crime. In the present situation, there is no deterrence, and criminals know their chances of being caught…and punished in accordance with the law are, in many cases, almost nil.”[1]

Zahalka gave prominence to the role of political and societal leaders in the fight against crime, violence and murder, including the heads of the local councils, clerics, educators, academics and members of NGOs.

He regards the murder of Arabs, adults and children alike, as the most immoral and illegal act, and claimed that the police are responsible because they are helpless to deter murderers, who are neither arrested nor receive the punishment they deserve.

His position on other murders, however, is different. He calls the Arab Israeli female terrorists convicted of murdering Israelis or of involvement in terrorist attacks “prisoners of freedom.” He demands their immediate release, along with all the other Palestinian prisoners, many of whom were convicted of murdering Israelis, including children. To show solidarity and support, from time to time Zahalka visits prisons to meet with  Arab Israeli and Palestinian security prisoners.[2] After one such visit, during which he met with two Palestinians, one of whom had been convicted of involvement in the murder of five Israelis, he said that “a new local and international campaign should be initiated to release [the two] and all the other prisoners of freedom.”[3]

Zahalka does not speak only for himself. He faithfully represents the mindset of the Israeli Arab leadership, which refers to itself as “Palestinian,” as stated in a document written by Higher [Israeli-] Arab Monitoring Committee. The document refers to the security prisoners who are citizens of the State of Israel as “prisoners of freedom” and “political prisoners,” with no relation to the severity of their crimes, even when they are guilty of murdering children. The Committee, of which Zahalka is a member, completely supports all the “prisoners of freedom,” including the murderers, and opposed the attempt of the Israeli establishment “to present solidarity with the prisoners of freedom as support for terrorism.” Rather, the “prisoners of freedom” should be part of any agreement to release Palestinian prisoners, such as the deal to release abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, because they belong to the “national Palestinian struggle.”[4]

When it is a question of Israelis killed by Israeli Arabs or Palestinians, Zahalka does not appeal to the Israel Police to be vigorous in apprehending and punishing murderers, nor is he of the opinion that public, religious and intellectual Arab figures have an important role to play in combating terrorism and murder. The issue of deterrence through punishment for murders committed by Israeli Arabs is completely abandoned when those being murdered are Jews. Quite the opposite, according to Zahalka, when it comes to killing Jews the concept of deterrence should be discarded and murderers should be released without punishment.






Jonathan Dahoh-Halevi
Fellow and senior researcher at the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs , head of research of the Orient Research Group Ltd., investigative journalist and an activist in the Jewish and Israeli communities.

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