It was only a matter of time until Christian Member of Knesset Basel Ghattas of the Joint Arab List pulled such a stunt in his self-styled role as a champion of the Palestinian cause.
But he never suspected the stunt could put him behind bars.
What’s known so far is that on December 18, Ghattas arrived at Ketziot Prison to visit two jailed Palestinian terrorists – Walid Daka, who is serving a life sentence for his part in the 1984 abduction and murder of IDF Cpl. Moshe Tamam, and Basel Bazara, once a commander of the PLO terrorist arm known as the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.
Bazara is considered the leader of the PLO prisoners at Ketzion Prison.
Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit was only willing to say that Ghattas was caught smuggling 12 mobile phones, 16 SIM cards and a set of headphones. The Knesset House Committee voted to strip Ghattas of his parliamentary immunity from prosecution, which in turn led to his arrest for further investigation.
Ghattas’ latest stunt joins a list of actions designed to test the limit of the public’s patience for his provocations.
On October 15, Ghattas entered the Temple Mount, thus defying Prime Minister Netanyahu’s order forbidding MKs from entering the holy site until further notice.
In August 2016, days after the “knife intifada” broke out, Ghattas participated in the anti-Israel World Social Forum convened in Montreal, Canada. Canadian Jewish organizations had accused this forum of holding extreme anti-Israel positions and of encouraging antisemitism. The Montreal forum held several workshops supporting boycotting and sanctioning Israel.
Ghattas himself said he raised funds for a flotilla trying to break the Gaza embargo and called to boycott Israel. He also confirmed that he was involved in the Hamas-PLO reconciliation attempt.
In September 2016, while former President Shimon Peres was in intensive care from which he never recovered, Ghattas stated that “he is covered with our [Palestinian] blood.” He, as well as the rest of the Joint Arab List, refused to attend Peres’ funeral, thus sparking an uproar even among Israeli Arabs.
Ghattas is not the first Arab MK accused of breaching national security. The founder of Ghattas’ own Balad Party (which is part of the Joint Arab List) was a Christian named Azmi Bishara. He fled Israel in 2006 after it was discovered that he aided Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War. Similarly, former Balad MK Said Nafa was sentenced to one year in prison for contacting a foreign agent.
These kinds of actions are hurting the Israeli Arabs by stigmatizing the entire minority, most of whom are opposed to such subversion. The Arab community therefore must condemn Basel Ghattas, as well as Hanin Zoabi and Jamal Zahalka, who, instead of working toward coexistence and partnership, are doing whatever they can to disrupt Jewish-Arab relations in Israel.
Jonathan Elkhoury is a spokesman for the Christian Empowerment Council that encourages Arabic-speaking Christians to integrate with Israeli Jewish society.