MK Odeh Urges Arabs Serving in Israeli Occupation Forces to Quit

MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash), the head of the Joint List in the Israeli parliament urged all Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel serving in Israel’s occupation forces to quit, slamming their service as “humiliating” and a “disgrace”.

Israeli occupation forces detain Palestinians amidst tensions in the vicinity of the Damascus gate, East Jerusalem. Since the beginning of fasting month of Ramadan, tensions take place every night due to the Israeli suppression of Palestinians who gather to chant and protest against Israeli occupation in front of Damascus gate, April 9, 2022 (Photo: Activestills)

That criticism was amplified considerably after Odeh visited occupied Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday evening and met with groups of young East Jerusalem Palestinians who alleged that they had been attacked by Arab police officers.

“Young people must not join the occupation forces. I call on the young people who have already joined, who are no more than one percent, a total of a few thousand, whose joining is insulting and humiliating, I call on them — throw the weapons in their face and tell them that our place is not with you. We will not be part of the injustice and the crime,” he said. “It’s a disgrace that a young Arab or the parents of a young Arab would agree to enlist and serve in the security forces, which are actually forces of the occupation,” said Odeh in a video filmed at occupied East Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate.

“I call on those who have enlisted, who are a small minority, between 1 and 1.5 per cent, throw your weapons in their faces. We don’t need to be with them, not part of this crime,” he added, “but rather on the same side as our people, in order to end the occupation.”

This comes amid the nightly attacks against Palestinians a week into the Muslim holy month of Ramadan by Israeli soldiers that have raised concern about a repeat of violence that erupted last year. The amphitheater-style plaza outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate is a popular spot for Palestinians to meet after breaking their daily fast. Vendors roll carts of snacks and juice into the square. Palestinian youth at times perform acrobatics to cheers from the crowd.

In response, Israel’s far-right Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked took to Twitter to reject any possibility that the coalition could partner with Odeh’s Joint List. She wrote: “Ayman Odeh incites against the State of Israel and its institutions. We won’t make agreements with him. His place is outside Israel’s Knesset.”

Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev of the Labor Party, a reserve officer with the rank of colonel who was commander of an elite commando unit between 1984 and 1987, called the comments “infuriating, dangerous and irresponsible,” while Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan of the Zionist Meretz party and a retired major general in the Israeli army who served as Deputy Chief of the General Staff, slammed Odeh for “working against the interests of the Arab citizens of Israel.”

On Monday, the police submitted a request to the state prosecution asking it to examine whether Odeh’s remarks meet the criteria of criminal incitement.  Additionally, Odeh’s comments were translated by the National Cyber Crime Unit of Lahav 433. Because he is a member of the Knesset, the decision to investigate Odeh remains in the hands of the General Attorney