Aliyah and Absorption Minister Ze'ev Elkin (Likud) on Wednesday slammed Arab MK Jamal Zahalka (Joint List), who earlier proclaimed Israel an “economic apartheid state.” Elkin told Zahalka that he should be “ashamed of yourself. You get a huge salary from the State of Israel and you stand here and curse at it in its parliament.”
Earlier Wednesday, Zahalka, during a ceremony naming MK Aida Touma-Sliman as head of the Knesset's Committee for Advancement of Women, paraphrased a poem by Arab poet Al-Moutanabi. Zahalka said that “the gap between words and deeds in this committee is vast. Everyone talks about equality and workplace opportunities for women, but you need a magnifying glass to see movement in these areas.” Especially among Arab women, he said, there was little chance to earn a decent living.
A livid Elkin demanded that Zahalka hand in his resignation, if that is how he felt. “If this is what you believe about Israel, give up your post and your salary. You are a traitorous hypocrite,” he said.
Later, Elkin addressed the Arab MKs as a whole, saying that it was not Israel that attacked the surrounding Arab countries in 1967, resulting in the liberation of Judea, Samaria, and most of Jerusalem, but the Arab states that had sought to destroy Israel and “throw the Jews into the sea.” Elkin accused the Arab MKs of “taking advantage of the only democracy in the Middle East, which allows you to work against the state. You clearly support those that wish to destroy the state,” he added.
Touma-Sliman, the new Committee head – the first female Arab MK to be appointed to such a post – founded an NGO named Women Aganist Violence (WAV) in 1992 and has served as its executive director since then. Based in Nazareth, the NGO is described as the leading feminist organization in the Arab sector. The group has been heavily funded by the New Israel Fund (NIF) over the years: according to NGO Monitor, in 2006-2009, the NIF authorized grants worth $1,116,500 to WAV.
Touma-Sliman, a senior member of the mostly communist Hadash faction, is also the only female member of the radical Higher Arab Monitoring Committee.