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Call for treason? Arab-Israeli lawmaker tells Arabs serving in the security forces to quit

Head of the Arab Joint List party Ayman Odeh tells Arab policemen in Israel to lay down their arms and leave the “occupation forces” 

Ayman Odeh in a video message in front of the Damascus gate in Jerusalem, April 10, 2022 (Photo: Screenshot)

In a controversial video posted to social media on Sunday, an Arab-Israeli lawmaker called on Arab citizens serving in the Israeli security forces to quit their roles and lay down their arms. 

Ayman Odeh, head of the Arab Joint List party, made the remarks from Jerusalem’s Damascus gate, addressing the forces as young Arab-Israelis. 

“In the recent period I have met with several communities in Jerusalem... in occupied Arab Jerusalem... and they told me that Arabs, Palestinians who hold an Israeli citizenship have been assaulting and abusing them,” Odeh said. 

“It is important for me to tell you from here, from the Damascus Gate. It is a shame... A shame for any young Palestinian, or the family of any such Palestinians of our own, to get involved and enlist to what is called the security forces. In practice, it is the ‘occupation forces,’” Odeh said.

The Damascus Gate area has been the scene of almost daily clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli police since the beginning of Ramadan. This period of the year usually comes with heightened tensions around Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. 

“The forces that are here are harming the dignity of our people, harming the dignities of our families and harming those who want to pray in the al-Aqsa Mosque,” Odeh added. 

“Our historical position is to be with our oppressed people in order to end this criminal occupation, in order for the State of Palestine to be established and for the flags of Palestine to be hung on the walls of Jerusalem here,” he said.

Odeh’s remarks caused public uproar and were met with heavy criticism across the political spectrum. Israeli media outlets reported on Monday that his comments will be examined by the Israeli courts as a possible call for treason.

In response, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, posted on Twitter that he is “proud of the Arab soldiers in the IDF, the Arab policemen in the Israeli police and in all members of the security forces, from all religions and sectors, who are guarding us these days.”

Bennett added a screenshot from a Bnei Brak councilman, announcing that a street in the ultra-Orthodox town will be named after Amir Khoury, a Christian-Arab police officer who died thwarting a terror attack two weeks ago. 

Nir Barkat, Likud party member and former Jerusalem mayor, referred to Odeh’s remarks as “inciteful” to the extent of treason and called for a criminal investigation into the matter. He said pressing charges against the Arab-Israeli lawmaker might be necessary. 

“It is unthinkable that while Israel is dealing with a deadly wave of terror, an Israeli lawmaker calls on Arab citizens to revolt and harm the country’s security,” said Barkat.  

Keti Shitrit, member of the Likud party, said she was not surprised by the video. 

“If only we start listening every time to what they say in Arabic and not in Hebrew, we will understand that these people are ought to be lawmakers in either Ramallah or Syria,” she said. “It is a shame that there are those who consider themselves to be Zionists, yet are still thinking about the option of sitting in a coalition with them or relying on them.” 

Against such accusations from the opposition, several members of Bennett’s political coalition insisted that the government will not partner with the Joint List party in an attempt to re-gain the majority in the Knesset. 

Following the dramatic resignation of one lawmaker last week, the coalition has turned into a lame-duck government. With only 60 seats in parliament, the Bennett government is unable to pass laws on its own. And thanks to Odeh’s latest statements, the voting bloc of the Joint List party is definitely off the table.

Read more: ISRAELI ARABS

Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.

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