Monday, April 16, 2007

Is Bishara the 'Palestinian Herzl'?

By Danny Rubinstein

"The recent affair concerning the criminal investigation of MK Azmi Bishara, the Israeli Arab Balad party chairman who has left the country, has spawned a multitude of journalistic reports and commentaries. Palestinian political commentator Hassan al-Batal went as far as to write that the lawmaker "could have become the Palestinian Herzl," referring to the founder of Zionism.

The Arab media as a whole have applauded him. A journalist from the Saudi daily Asharq Al-Awsat interviewed a young woman from southern Lebanon, who predicted that Bishara would one day become president of the Palestinian state. He reminded her that Bishara was a member of the Israeli Knesset, and that he belonged to the Palestinian Christian minority. She was unfazed, insisting that he was the best choice precisely because of his intimate knowledge of "Zionist fascism."

The Nazareth-based newspaper Hadith Al-Nas ran an article predicting that Bishara would not become another Mahmoud Darwish, the Arab-Israeli poet who left Israel in the 1970s. The article did not seek to slight Bishara; it just suggested that he would not leave the country as he himself said in one of his interviews......

MKs Ahmed Tibi and Mohammed Barakeh are well-known figures in the Arab world, due to their frequent appearances in Arab foreign media outlets. However, keen observers might have noticed that while they have been presented as lawmakers, Bishara is considered to be a thinker, an Arab nationalist.

These details assume special importance in light of the possibility that the Arab-Israeli minority could in the future become a key factor in the regional dispute. The map is simple enough to decipher: If Israel and the Palestinian Authority fail to reach an agreement based on a two-state solution, the only alternative would be a single-state solution. There is no other prospect.

This single state would not be a "secular democratic nation," as the PLO advocated in the past, nor would it be a state of all its citizens, which is the cause Bishara has set out to realize. The strong Jewish majority would not allow that. The only option remaining would be an apartheid state, whose first signs - and possibly more than just that - are already visible in the West Bank and in Gaza.

In this case, the struggle in store for the Arabs of the occupied territories would be directed to achieving equal rights and equality within the State of Israel. This would include establishing full unity between them and the Arab Israeli minority - a unity that does not exist today. If that happens, then who knows what will occur: Azmi Bishara could very well go down in history as the "Palestinian Herzl." "

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