Israeli President Katsav strikes again: this time he accuses Palestinian and
foreign workers for the "Versailles" wedding hall disaster. In response, MK
Azmi Bishara urges the international diplomatic community to take the State
of Israel to task for its President's racist remarks regarding "non-Jews."
MK Azmi Bishara
National Democratic Assembly
May 29, 2001
In a letter addressed to Europe's Foreign Ministers issued today in response
to the blatantly racist opinions repeatedly expressed by Israeli President
Moshe Katsav about the Arab public in Israel-a public that comprises almost
20% of the citizenry he is supposed to represent-MK Azmi Bishara wrote:
"Most recently, following the tragedy at the "Versailles" wedding hall in
Jerusalem, where over 20 people were killed and over 300 people were injured
due to faulty Israeli engineering methods, President Katsav squarely placed
the blame for the accident on the fact that Israeli buildings have, for the
past 30 years, been constructed by "non-Jewish" and "foreign" laborers (May
"Prior to this outlandish correlation, President Katsav contended that
"there is an incredible difference between us and our enemies, not only in
ability, but also in morality, culture, value attributed to life, and
conscience" (May 13, 2001).
"Finally, not being privy to the sentiments expressed by the president
behind closed doors, in mid-February of 2001 President Katsav publicly
contended in various media that there is no discrimination against the Arab
citizens of Israel, but rather that the latter merely feel discriminated
against-a feeling which the Arabs must overcome themselves.
"I need not venture too far into the past to remind you of the international
uproar that swept Europe following the election of Joerg Haider to the
Austrian government. The fact that the Israeli President's intolerant,
insensitive, and incendiary remarks have gone unnoticed should be a red flag
to us all. It is difficult to find meaningful criticism of these attitudes
in the Israeli press, let alone in international media outlets-which, I can
only assume, simply do not report them.
"I urge you, on behalf of the Arab public in Israel, and in the name of the
basic values of equality, pluralism, and tolerance, to take the State of
Israel, and the office of its president in particular, to task on this
"At a time when the State of Israel is using unprecedented force to repress
the Palestinian struggle for liberation from without, I implore you to also
take notice of the escalating violence-both physical and rhetorical-directed
against the Palestinian demand for justice and equality from within."
MK Azmi Bishara