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How an Arab-Israeli Politician's Efforts Inadvertently Dispel the "Apartheid" Myth

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Jamal Zahalka is a shining example of why Israel is not an "apartheid" state. On top of being an Arab-Israeli citizen, Zahalka is a member of Balad, an Arab political party which is diametrically opposed to the existence of the state of Israel.

As a Member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament), Zahalka has actively tried to undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish state, calling for sanctions against Israel and holding meetings with and standing in solidarity with terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. If a Canadian MP were to meet with, endorse, and support members of Al Qaeda, that politician would likely be censured for seditious conduct, but in Israel, Zahalka is part of the Jewish state's vibrant liberal democracy.

To mark Israel's 65th birthday yesterday, Zahalka participated in a so-called "March of Return" during Independence Day celebrations where he was quoted by the Palestinian daily newspaper Al Ayyam as saying that Israel's celebrations were like "dancing on Palestinian blood."

Two weeks ago, the Toronto Star's editorial page editor emeritus, Haroon Siddiqui, interviewed Zahalka on his recent trip to Canada, giving him a soap box to indict Israel with baseless allegations, rather than advancing the collective interests of Israelis, Jews, and Arabs alike.

Zahalka, you should know, studied pharmacy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, earning his BA, MA, and Ph.D and yet, he has the temerity to charge Israel with "apartheid," claiming that Israeli-Arabs are treated as "second class citizens" despite the fact that Arabs enjoy the same full rights as Jews in Israel.

Zahalka cautions that a "third intifada" may be in the offing. This prediction rings hollow to Israel Defense Forces chief Benny Gantz and seems entirely redundant to some analysts who contend that the "second intifada" simply never ended; Israel's security efforts just got better.

Not surprisingly, this column failed to acknowledge that from the second intifada in 2000 to the start of 2010, 1,118 Israelis were killed and 8,022 more were injured as a result of Palestinian terror attacks like suicide bombings and rocket attacks. Just today, two rockets were fired across the Egyptian border hitting the Israeli resort town of Eilat.

Contrary to Zahalka, another intifada isn't "inevitable." Like previous "uprisings," Palestinians are incited to commit violent terror against Israelis by their own politicians, teachers, and religious leaders.

Seemingly satisfied with giving Zahalka an extended platform to tar Israel, Siddiqui concluded his column by referring to arch-Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti -- who like Zahalka, also got his PhD in Israel (except while in prison) -- as being the leader of the "first and second intifada."

It's as if it's virtuous and a badge of honour to trumpet this individual's role in the murder and maiming of thousands of Israelis, but these efforts are not worthy of inclusion in one's curriculum vitae. Again, what Siddiqui failed to indicate about Barghouti -- in the same manner as he did with Zahalka -- is that Barghouti is responsible for a series of terror attacks and was convicted in an Israeli civilian court on five counts of murder with primary responsibility for the grisly killing of a Greek monk and diners in a seafood restaurant. A court ruling issued by Judge Svi Gurfinkel at the District Court of Tel Aviv and Jaffa on Dec. 12, 2002, found that Barghouti "carried out a series of actions that caused, promoted, and enabled the implementation of ... Acts of Terror."

Barghouti is a convicted murderer who under the laws of any democratic society deserves to remain behind bars. Even if Barghouti were to be released at some future date, that would not diminish his crimes or the legitimacy of putting him behind bars in the first place.

Birds of the same feather tend to flock together. Zahalka and Barghouti are testaments to, not indictments of, the equal treatment that Israel, a country just 65 years young, gives to its Arab citizens and to Palestinians terrorists in its jails.

If only we could all look this good at 65.