In my view Azmi Bishara is a scoundrel. Worst than that, he is an opportunist. He is also intelligent, charismatic, smart and eloquent but he lacks any moral foundation. Moshe Sharett once said about one of his political allies that he had a brilliant mind and a murky soul. Bishara more or less fits this description.
In an interview with him published last week in the Yedioth Ahronoth weekend supplement, Bishara revealed some of his less pleasant features, but he also revealed some unpleasant truths pertaining to Israeli society. Bishara is incapable of looking at himself in the mirror, but he is certainly capable of placing a mirror in front of others.
He consistently breaches pledges of allegiance. There is no dispute over the fact that he openly breached his pledge of allegiance to the Knesset and the assurances he gave to the High Court of Justice - assurances that enabled his Balad party to run for the Knesset.
Less known is his betrayal of a left-wing group of Jews and Arabs who 20 years ago formed groups such as "The 21st year," and intellectual hubs such as the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem. These youngsters seriously fought to turn Israel into what they called "a state for all its citizens," free of Jewish and Arab nationalism. Bishara was their leader, their guru.
The admiration towards him was also replete with guilt feelings as well as romantic wishful thinking. In their minds he was perceived as the wild noble, the fighting philosopher. Women fell in love with him. The men paved his way through the corridors of academia. Then one bright morning some opened their eyes and discovered that Bishara was nothing but a regular Arabist national, a slave to the worst of Arab regimes. They also discovered that he holds money very dear.
His Balad party was supposed to faithfully represent the educated, secular, progressive Arab sectors. Arabs who had graduated Israeli universities pinned their hopes on it: They hoped the party would conduct two parallel struggles. Primarily, against the discriminating policies of the Jewish governments; the secondary, against the Islamization of the Arab community.
Being in exile not easy
When Benjamin Netanyahu served as prime minister, Muslim fundamentalists forcefully took over the square under the Church of Annunciation in Nazareth and Balad activists in Nazareth understood how dangerous it was. They called me and other journalists. Weeks and months went by; the affair only worsened. However, Balad, under Bishara's orders, remained silent. Balad betrayed Balad.
Only an arrogant man such as Bishara could demand from his investigators what no man in Israel can. "I will not be a small-time suspect," he said to the interviewer. "Let them treat a leader as a leader. I will not sit in front of an interrogator or prosecutor and explain what I meant by every sentence that was tapped. Who are they to enter our lives and our relations with the Arab world?"
However, only a witty person such as Bishara can describe the Israeli media's conduct in such a way: "All of a sudden everyone turns into a military philosopher handing out advice about what should be done. Advice isn't given to Israelis, only to Arabs. Paternalism mixed with racism, smartness and self satisfaction. All types of pompous, smart-aleck people who think that because they write they are permitted to say how Bint Jbeil should be wiped out. No one is settling scores with those publicists in Israeli journalism who advocated the war."
Just like other politicians in the Arab sector, Bishara tested his limits. He traveled to Damascus and Beirut and organized trips for others to go there as well. When he saw that he was being left alone, he took another step, and then another. When he realized he had crossed the limits, he fled.
Even if the allegations against him are true - he half-heartedly admits to them in the interview - it is doubtful whether he caused any real damage to security. He is right when he says that Hizbullah had better sources than him for intelligence pertaining to sensitive sites in Israel on which to fire missiles. If he received funds from Hizbullah, he caused more harm to himself than he did to the State.
Bishara is dangerous in a completely different sense. He is a provocateur seeking to fan the flames between Arabs and Jews inside and outside of Israel. Therefore, we would all be better off if he remains outside of Israel. He will soon discover that being in exile is not easy. There are not too many Knesset members advocating the bombing of Israeli citizens, but there are many exiles. Bishara will not disappear: He'll dry up.
PS. The Knesset would do well to halt all the idiotic proposals preventing his pension. The man has not been convicted. An indictment hasn't been served either. A law-abiding society is not only measured by its fairness towards honest citizens, but also by its fairness towards its scoundrels.