Azmi Bishara

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Azmi Bishara
14th Knesset
In office
June 1996 – May 1999
15th Knesset
In office
July 1999 – January 2003
16th Knesset
In office
February 2003 – March 2006
17th Knesset
In office
March 2006 – April 22, 2007 (resigned)
Personal details
Born 22 July 1956 (1956-07-22) (age 58)
Nazareth
Political party Balad

Azmi Bishara (Arabic: عزمي بشارة, Hebrew: עזמי בשארה, born July 22, 1956),[1] was an Arab Israeli politician. He is a Palestinian Christian and an Israeli citizen. Bishara was a member of the Israeli Knesset (MK) as a member of the Balad party from 1996 until resigning (stopped being a member) in April 2007. He is also the leader of that political party.[1][2]

His resignation happened during news that the Israeli security services said he had committed many crimes.[3] The news at that time did not say what the crimes were. It was later said that the crimes were treason and espionage.[4] Because he resigned, Bishara lost his parliamentary immunity. He was not in Israel when this happened and chose not to go back to Israel at that time. He has said that he does want to return.[5]

Early life[change | change source]

Bishara was born in Nazareth[1]. He created the first National Committee of Arab High School Students. In 1974, he was in charge of that group. In 1976,[6] he helped create the Committee for the Defense of Arab Lands and the first National Arab Student Union.[2]

In the 1970s, Bishara studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He was the head of the Arab Student Union and was active in the Jewish-Arab student group Campus. At the time, Bishara was a member of the Israeli Communist party Rakah (now part of Hadash), and supported an Internationalist-Marxist political agenda.

Upon finishing his Ph.D in philosophy at Humboldt University of Berlin in 1986, he joined the faculty of Bir Zeit University,[7]. He was in charge of the Philosophy and Cultural Studies Department for two years, from 1994 to 1996. He has also worked as a senior researcher at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem.[8]

Political career[change | change source]

Bishara was a Knesset member from the fourteenth Knesset (first seating June 17 1996) until April 22, 2007. He was the most important member of his political party[1], the National Democratic Assembly (NDA-Balad) in the Knesset during this time[8].

Bishara was the first Arab citizen of Israel to try to become Prime Minister. He tried to become Prime Minister in the 1999 election,[9] but stopped two days before election day.

The Central Elections Committee (CEC) said that MKs Ahmad Tibi and Azmi Bishara, as well as Bishara's party, Balad, could not be elected for the 16th Knesset in 2003. Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein agreed with this and had also tried to stop them from being allowed to be elected. The CEC said that they believed that Bishara and Balad wanted "to destroy the Jewish character of the state and supported the armed struggle against it". The Israeli Supreme Court said this was wrong and that they could be elected.[10]

Visits to Syria[change | change source]

Bishara went to Syria in 2001. He gave a speech at a memorial ceremony for Syrian President Hafez al-Assad where he showed support for Hezbollah. When he got back to Israel, the government said that he was guilty of trying to cause violence and supporting a terrorist organization, as defined by Israel's Prevention of Terror Ordinance.[11] Bishara went back to Syria in September 2006. While he was there, he said that Israel might attack Syria in more than one place to try to fix problems in Israel and show other countries that it would not be a good idea to attack it.[12] He also went to Lebanon. He told the Lebanese prime minister that Hizbullah fighting against Israel has "lifted the spirit of the Arab people".[13] Soon after this, Interior Minister Roni Bar-On asked Attorney General Menachem Mazuz see if Balad MKs Azmi Bashara, Jamal Zahalka and Wassel Taha were guilty of any crimes because of their visit to Syria. He did this because after Bashara's visit to Syria in 2001, the Knesset made a law that said that MKs could not go to any enemy countries.[14]

Resignation from Knesset and Suspicion of High Treason[change | change source]

On April 22, 2007, Bishara resigned from the Knesset at the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, Egypt. He did this after a police investigation of foreign people he knew and talk with. It was also said that he helped the enemy during wartime, gave information on to the enemy and laundered money he got from foreign sources.[15] It was said that he might stay out of Israel because he did not want to go to jail and because it would end his political career."[16] He also said that he believed he would not get a fair trial.[15]

Court documents say that Bishara was questioned two times about the case. During the second time, he said that he was going to leave Israel for a couple of days. He said he would attend a third questioning session when he got back to Israel.[17][18] Bishara talked to a group of supporters in Nazareth using a telephone in April 2007. He told the thousands of supporters that, "My guilt is that I love my homeland... our intellect and our words are our weapons. Never in my life did I draw a gun or kill anyone."[19]

Awards[change | change source]

Bishara was awarded the “Ibn Rushd 'Averroes' Prize for Freedom of Thought” for the year 2002 in Berlin,[20] and the Global Exchange Human Rights Award for the year 2003 in San Francisco.[21]

References and notes[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 - English: Azmi Bishara listen
    - Arabic: عزمي بشارة listen
    - Hebrew: עזמי בשארה listen
    Information from Azmi Bishara Knesset Profile in English, Hebrew and Arabic
  2. 2.0 2.1 Jerusalem Post piece about Azmi Bishara for the 1999 elections Accessed March 11 2007
  3. Ex-MK Bishara suspected of treason, passing data to Hezbollah Haaretz, Accessed 2 May 2007
  4. Bishara suspected of aiding Hizbullah for money Ynetnews, Accessed 3 May 2007
  5. Police probe Arab Knesset member Al Jazeera, Accessed 30 April 2007
  6. Azmi Bishara - National Democratic Alliance Haaretz, Accessed March 11 2007.
  7. "1980-1986: جامعة هومبولون برلين. تخرج منها بشهادة دكتوراة في الفلسفة بإمتياز."
    "1986-1996: محاضر الفلسفة والدراسات الثقافية، جامعة بير زيت."
    Translation:
    "1980-1986: Humboldt University, Berlin. He graduated cum-laude with a Ph.D. in Philosophy."
    "1986-1996: Lecturer in Philosophy and Cultural Studies, Bir-Zeyt University."
    Archived bio of Azmi Bishara (in Arabic) from the official NDA website Accessed February 24 2007
  8. 8.0 8.1 Bishara's English bio at Adalah
  9. Profile: Israel's Arab voice. BBC News, January 9 2003
  10. High Court overturns disqualifications of Tibi, Bishara Jerusalem Post, Accessed February 24 2007
  11. Israel's Knesset Votes to Revoke Immunity From Popular Palestinian Member of Parliament Azmi bishara
  12. MK Bishara warns Syria of Israeli attack Ynetnews, September 9 2006
  13. Balad MKs praise Hizbullah resistance Jerusalem Post, September 15 2006
  14. Bar-On wants passports of Arab MKs who visited Syria revoked Haaretz, September 11 2006
  15. 15.0 15.1 Balad Chairman Bishara: I cannot receive a fair trial in Israel Haaretz, Accessed 28 April 2007
  16. Report: MK Bishara leaves Egypt Jerusalem Post. Accessed 25 April 2007
  17. Bishara suspected of aiding enemy during Lebanon war Ynetnews, Accessed 25 April 2007
  18. Bishara suspected of aiding enemies during Second Lebanon War Haaretz, Accessed 25 April 2007
  19. Thousands protest in Nazareth in support of former MK Bishara Haaretz, Accessed 28 April 2007
  20. List of laureates of the Ibn Rushd prize for freedom of thought The Ibn-Rushd foundation
  21. Global Exchange 3rd Annual Human Rights Awards Ceremony Global Exchange, May 22 2003

Other websites[change | change source]