Former MK and Balad Chairman Azmi Bishara, who is currently residing in Qatar, delivered an address to the party's youth convention on Thursday via video conference.
The speech was said to be the highlight of the evening, which was held in a Nazareth Illit (Upper Nazareth) hotel and was titled "No to National Service."
The matter of Arab youths, who are exempt from mandatory IDF service, volunteering for National Service, is a volatile subject: Just nine months ago, current Balad Chairman, MK Jamal Zahalka announced that anyone in the Arab sector volunteering for the service would be considered a pariah.
Following the party's fierce objections, its youth movement launched a "prevention campaign," going around Arab communities and informing their peers – who may have been contemplating joining the National Service – the Israel's promises that volunteering would make them eligible for certain benefits, were empty ones.
Bishara began his speech by reminding his listeners he no longer has holds official position in the party, adding "you are the Palestinian people's political future and we are all counting on you."
Future of Palestinian politics (Photo: Hagai Aharon)
"This is a state of Apartheid. Israel uses citizenship as a weapon against some people and ties it in to political allegiance.
"Israel is hysterical. There are cocky on the one hand – boasting about their military strength, academia and strong economy; and on the other hand it nurtured the fear Israelis have of the strategic threat the Arabs pose – all to justify its undemocratic, racist, manipulative use of the citizenship tool," he said.
The Palestinians, he continued, "must reinforce our national consciousness and mount an objection. We have to use our citizenship to demand our rights."
The 20-ninute speech was interrupted occasionally by the crowd's cheers. Bishara chose to end his speech by addressing the matter of National Service, stressing that he was all for Arab youths serving their country, but not through the National Service "which is an attempt to erase our identity."
"National Service is an Israeli attempt to erase the psychological barrier teenagers have when it comes to serving in the IDF, thus trying to erase our identity," he said.
As for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Bishara said he believed it was doomed to begin with, adding he thinks 95% of the Arab nations will not support it.