TEL AVIV – An Arab Member of Knesset justified his visit to terrorists’ families, saying that Palestinians who kill Israelis are neither “criminal” nor doing anything “illegal.” Instead, they are acting “in the turmoil of the struggle against the oppressive occupation,” Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reported.
Balad MK Bassel Ghattas told Israeli Arabic language station Hala TV on Thursday that he will resign if he is not allowed to meet with “the families of martyrs.”
“The day Arab MKs abstain from visiting shahids’ (martyrs) families who have lost their precious sons in the turmoil of the struggle against the oppressive occupation, we will have to vacate our [parliamentary] chairs and leave the keys at home,” Ghattas said.
Ghattas was suspended from the Knesset this week for four months along with two other Arab MKs who met with families of terrorists. Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh of Hadash charged the government with “corpse trafficking,” saying the purpose of the Balad MKs’ visit was “a basic human matter” to discuss the release of the terrorists’ bodies for burial.
However, the independent Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported that the MKs had observed a minute of silence in honor of the terrorists while visiting the families.
“This is an idiot attempt to bring this affair back to the headlines,” Ghattas said. “I said these same things to Ayala Hasson in an interview on Channel 10 last week. Our meeting with these families has only one objective. Our request is this – the return of the bodies. I am not justifying murder on any side. What I said in the interview was that these people were killed in the context of the struggle, in the context of the fight against the occupation.”
The interview generated fierce backlash from other MKs. Zionist Union MK Itzik Shmuli said, “These grave statements prove that Balad MKs continue to be provocateurs. At least this time the truth came out – that the issues of the Arab citizens of Israel do not really interest them. Maybe instead of getting on another flotilla to Gaza, he can take a taxi to see what is going on in Tayibe.”