An Arab member of Israel's parliament is drawing heat for saying there is "nothing more praiseworthy than martyrdom" for Palestinians. It was not an endorsement of suicide bombing, Ahmad Tibi says, but some of his Knesset peers consider his words traitorous and incitement.
"The shahid [martyr] is honored throughout the history of nations. He is the one who blazed the trail for us. He paved the path to liberty with his blood," Tibi said last week, commemorating the Palestinian Authority's 'Martyr's Day.' "They are the shahids [martyrs] who the occupier calls terrorists and we say are fighting for the homeland," he added.
Tibi claims that his comments were not controversial because "Israelis are ignorant with regards to the term shahid [martyr]," despite its frequent use by terrorist organizations to describe killed fighters. He says he was referring to all those killed by Israeli forces while struggling "for the homeland," and not suicide bombers. But Tibi endorsed terrorism on Palestinian Authority television in 2008, stating "I emphasize, resisting the occupation is possible, permissible, and furthermore, it is one of the rights of the occupied people, as Hizballah did and was victorious in its resistance."
Tibi has raised controversy in other ways. Last year, the Knesset shot down a bill he proposed which would have denied state funds to any organization that refused to recognize the catastrophe [Nakba] of Israel's founding. The Knesset in the past week has voted down two other bills proposed by him, one which would have recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Arab Palestine and another which would honor Arabs who fought against the establishment of Israel in 1948.