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ADC Condemns Israeli Action Against Palestinian Legislator

Washington, DC –The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) strongly condemned the decision taken this morning by the Israeli Knesset’s House Committee to withdraw parliamentary immunity from Dr. Azmi Bishara, a Palestinian member of the Knesset. The decision to lift Bishara’s immunity was made at the request of Israel’s Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein who has been threatening for several months to file charges against Bishara for alleged anti-Israel statements through his public speeches, including one delivered in June at a memorial service in Syria for the late President Hafiz Assad. Rubinstein also accused Bishara of organizing unauthorized “family reunion” visits by Arab citizens of Israel to meet their relatives in Syria. By a 14-6 vote, the Knesset committee opened the door for Rubinstein to file charges against Bishara, however, the whole Knesset must approve such move by the attorney general’s office.
Bishara, a native of Nazareth, is a former chairman of the philosophy department at Bir Zeit University. He has served in the Knesset since 1996. He is the founder of the Democratic National Assembly (Balad), which enjoys two seats in the Knesset. In 1999, he became the first Arab candidate for prime minister in Israel.
ADC President Ziad Asali characterized the Israeli action against Bishara as “A real test for the existence in Israel of genuine respect for civil liberties, in general, and freedom of speech, in particular.” Asali urged the Bush Administration and American civil and human rights groups “to criticize the Knesset committee decision and work diligently to oppose the indictment of Dr. Bishara or the possible outlawing of his political party, Balad.”