Azmi Bishara

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Azmi Bishara
Azmi Bishara, 2013.JPG
Azmi Bishara in 2013.
Date of birth (1956-07-22) 22 July 1956 (age 59)
Place of birth Nazareth, Israel
Knessets 14, 15, 16, 17
Faction represented in Knesset
1996–2007 Balad

Azmi Bishara (Arabic: عزمي بشارةAbout this sound listen , Hebrew: עַזְמִי בִשַארָה About this sound listen , born 22 July 1956 in Nazareth, Israel), a former member of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament and founder of the Balad Party, is a Palestinian and an Israeli citizen. an intellectual, academic, politician, and writer.[1]

In 2007, Bishara was questioned by police on suspicion of aiding and passing information to the enemy during wartime, contacts with a foreign agent, and receiving large sums of money transferred from abroad.[2] Bishara denied the accusations and said they were part of an effort to punish him because he had opposed Israel's invasion of Lebanon the preceding summer.[2] He soon fled Israel and resigned from the Knesset. stating he could not receive a fair trial there.[2] In February 2011, the Israeli parliament passed the so-called “Bishara bill”, which stripped Bishara of his parliamentary benefits, including the pension he had received as a former Knesset member.[3]

Bishara is the General Director of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies in Doha, Qatar, and a member of its Executive Board.[4]


Early life and education[edit]

Bishara was born in Nazareth into a Roman Catholic lower-middle-class family. His mother was a teacher and his father a health inspector and trade unionist with connections to the Communist party. He is the brother of Marwan Bishara and noted chef and cookbook author Rawia Bishara. According to The Guardian, the family's history goes back hundreds of years to a village north of Nazareth.[5] Bishara attended Nazareth Baptist school,[citation needed] where he established the first National Committee of Arab High School Students, becoming its chairman in 1974.

He studied at Haifa University and at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem,[5] where in 1976 he founded and headed the Arab Student Union. In the same year, he was instrumental in setting up the Arab Student Committees and Campus Lands Defense Committee against the occupation of the Israeli-occupied territories.[6] At the time he was a member of the Israeli Communist Party Rakah (now part of Hadash), and supported an Internationalist-Marxist political agenda.


Academic career[edit]

Upon completing his PhD in philosophy at Humboldt University of Berlin (then East Germany) in 1986, he joined the faculty of Bir Zeit University,[7] and went on to head the Philosophy and Cultural Studies Department for two years, from 1994 to 1996. He has also worked as a senior researcher at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.[8]

He is one of the founders of the Society for Arab Culture and of Muwatin,[9] the Palestinian Institute for the Study of Democracy founded by a group of scholars and academics in 1992.[10] He also serves on the Board of Trustees of the Arab Democracy Foundation.[11]

Bishara is presently the General Director of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies in Doha, Qatar, also known as the Doha Institute, and a member of its Executive Board.[4] He is an important adviser to former Qatar emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and to his successor, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad.[12]

Political career[edit]

In 1995, Bishara was at the head of a group of young Israeli Palestinian intellectuals who founded the political party National Democratic Assembly, Brit Le'umit Demokratit in Hebrew, short Balad.[13] In 1996 he was elected to the fourteenth Knesset (first seating 17 June 1996) on the Balad-Hadash list.

Bishara was the first Arab citizen of Israel to run for Prime Minister in the 1999 election,[14] but dropped out of the race two days before election day. In the end, only Ehud Barak and Benyamin Netanyahu were left as final candidates,[6] with Barak emerging victorious.[15]

In 2003, the Israeli Supreme Court "overturned Central Elections Committee decisions to disqualify MKs Ahmad Tibi and Azmi Bishara, and Bishara's party, Balad, from running in the elections to the 16th Knesset." The CEC's decision was supported by Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein, "who went so far as to submit his own petition to the CEC against the party and its leader." "The CEC ruled that Bishara and Balad sought to destroy the Jewish character of the state and supported the armed struggle against it."[16]

2001 Visit to Syria[edit]

Bishara visited Syria in 2001, and gave a speech at a memorial ceremony for Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, where he expressed support for the internationally recognized right of an occupied people to resist occupation. He was accused in Israel of expressing support for Hezbollah, and upon his return to Israel was charged with incitement to violence and support for a terrorist organization, as defined by Israel's Prevention of Terror Ordinance.[17] After Bishara's visit to Syria, the Knesset passed a law forbidding MKs from visiting enemy states.[18]

2006 Israel–Lebanon War[edit]

During the 2006 Israel–Lebanon War Bishara criticized the Israeli government for not providing bomb shelters to Arab areas in Israel's north, and said Israel was using Arabs as "human shields" by putting artillery units next to Israeli Arab villages towns and villages.[19] Bishara also predicted that, because many Arab Israelis opposed the war or applauded Hezbollah's surprisingly strong resistance to the Israeli invasion, there would be negative repercussions for the community when the war ended. "We will have to pick up the bill on this," he said. "If [the Israelis] lose they will turn against us, if they win they will turn against us."[19]

In September 2006, shortly after the conclusion of the Lebanon war, Bishara again visited Syria and in a speech warned of the possibility that Israel might launch "a preliminary offensive in more than one place, in a bid to overcome the internal crisis in the country and in an attempt to restore its deterrence capability."[20]

Bishara and members of his party also visited Lebanon, where they told the Lebanese prime minister that Hezbullah's resistance to Israel during the preceding summer's war had "lifted the spirit of the Arab people".[21] Soon thereafter at Interior Minister Roni "Bar-On's request, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz ordered a criminal investigation against Balad MKs Azmi Bishara, Jamal Zahalka and Wassel Taha over the visit to Syria.[22]

Resignation from Knesset[edit]

On 22 April 2007, Bishara resigned from the Knesset via the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, following a police investigation into his foreign contacts, and accusations of allegedly aiding the enemy during wartime, passing information on to the enemy and contacts with a foreign agent, as well as laundering money received from foreign sources.[23] Bishara has denied the allegations, and has stated that he is staying abroad because he believes he wouldn't receive a fair trial.[23][24]

Following a petition by Haaretz and other media outlets to lift a gag order preventing publication of information relating to the specific charges being laid against Azmi Bishara, on 2 May 2007 the Petah Tikva Magistrate's Court announced the gag order would be fully lifted. One week prior, the court had allowed only for the fact that Bishara is suspected of assisting the enemy in wartime, transmitting information to the enemy, contact with a foreign agent and money-laundering to be publicized.[25]

Bishara is accused of giving Hezbollah information on strategic locations in Israel that should be attacked with rockets during the 2006 Lebanon War, in exchange for huge amounts of money. Wiretaps were authorized by the Israeli High Court of Justice. Investigators say that Bishara recommended long-range rocket attacks which would serve Hezbollah's cause.[26]

According to court documents "Bishara was questioned twice in the case and during the last encounter he told interrogators that he intends to leave Israel for a couple of days. He said he would attend a third questioning session soon upon his return to Israel".[27][28] Bishara addressed a rally of supporters in Nazareth via telephone in April 2007. He told the thousands of supporters that, "My guilt is that I love my homeland... our intellect and our words are our weapons. Never in my life did I draw a gun or kill anyone."[29]

Said Nafa, Bishara's replacement in the Knesset, commented on the charges leading up to Bishara's resignation, saying, "There were many instances in which the Shin Bet tried to set people up ... They're just trying to behead a prominent Arab leader. They will fail."[30]

On 14 February 2011, Bishara's pension as a former Knesset member was canceled through a new law. The law was specially written to handle his case.

Syrian revolt[edit]

According to the Financial Times, Bishara has been involved in the formation of the Syrian National Coalition, the main Syrian opposition umbrella group which is supported by Qatar, as an adviser to Qatar's then emir and crown prince, who has succeeded his father in late June 2013. In July 2011, Bishara reportedly said that Assad could have stayed in power had he made the reforms people wanted, writing: "The regime chose not to change, and so the people will change it."[12]

Personal life[edit]

Bishara is married and has two children.[5] According to The Jerusalem Post, he received a kidney transplant in March 1997 at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.[6] According to his website, he is a citizen of Qatar.[31]

Published works[edit]

  • من يهودية الدولة حتى شارون Min yahudiyat al-dawla hata Sharon ("From the Jewishness of the State to Sharon") (2005),[32]
  • The Ruptured Political Discourse and Other Studies (Arabic, 1998)
  • The Palestinian Intifada and Its Reflections in the Israeli Public Opinion[citation needed]
  • Two novels of a planned trilogy: The Checkpoint (2004) Arabic: وجد في بلاد الحواجز[33] Hebrew translation,[34] German translation,[35] and Love in the Shadow Zone (2005).[36]


  • On the Democratic Option: Four Critical Studies (Arabic) Re-published by the Center for Arab Unity Studies, Lebanon, 1993 (with Burhan Ghalioun, George Giacaman, and Said Zeedani)
  • Ziad Abu-Amr, with a Critical Commentary by Ali Jarbawi and Azmi Bishara: Civil Society and Democratic Change in Palestinian Society 1995 (Arabic)
  • A Critical Perspective on Palestinian Democracy 1995 (Arabic, with Musa Budeiri, Jamil Hilal, George Giacaman, and Azmi Bishara)
  • A Contribution to the Critique of Civil Society 1996 (Arabic)
  • The Ruptured Political Discourse and other Studies 1998 (Arabic)
  • The Site of Meaning: Essays from the First Year of the Intifada 2002 (Arabic)
  • In the Wake of the Israeli Invasion: Issues of Palestinian National Strategy 2002 (Arabic)
  • Theses on a Deferred Awakening 2003 (Arabic)
  • عزمي بشارة‎ (2005). من يهودية الدولة حتى شارون‎ [From the Jewishness of the State to Sharon] (in Arabic). دار الشروق للنشر والتوزيع‎. ISBN 978-9950-312-16-6. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  • The Elements of Democracy Series, Series Editor: Dr. Azmi Bishara (Arabic, 12 publications from '94 to '99)



  • alles ändert sich die ganze Zeit: Soziale Bewegung(en) im "Nahen Osten". Jörg Später (Hrsg.), mit Beiträgen von Azmi Bishara et al., Freiburg (Breisgau): Informationszentrum Dritte Welt, 1994[37]
  • Götz Nordbruch Red. & Rainer-Zimmer-Winkel Hg., John Bunzl & Moshe Zuckermann u.a., Beiträge: Die Araber und die Shoa. Über die Schwierigkeit dieser Konjunktion. darin von Azmi Bishara, Beitrag gleichlautend mit dem Gesamttitel, S. 9 – 33 Vortrag im WS 1992/93 an der Universität Innsbruck, von der Red. leicht überarb. & in den Fußnoten ergänzt. ISSN 0935-8684 ISBN 3-932528-37-9 ISBN 3865751016 (Auch in: Der Umgang mit dem Holocaust. Europa, USA, Israel. Hg. Rolf Steininger. Böhlau, Wien 1994 Reihe: Schriften des Instituts für Zeitgeschichte der Universität Innsbruck und des Jüdischen Museums Hohenems Bd. 1 ISBN 3-205-98173-1)
  • Die Jerusalem Frage: Israelis und Palaestinenser im Gespräch. Teddy Kollek, Hanan Ashrawi, Amos Oz, Faisal Husseini, Ehud Olmert, Albert Aghazarian, Shulamit Aloni, Nazmi al-Jubeh, Meron Benvenisti, Ikrima Sabri, Michel Sabbah/Uri Avnery, Azmi Bishara (Hg.) (Translated from the Arabic, English or Hebrew by various translators), Heidelberg : Palmyra, c1996[38]


See also[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Knesset Members: Azmi Bishara". State of Israel. 
  2. ^ a b c Balad Chairman Bishara: I cannot receive a fair trial in Israel
  3. ^ Rebecca Anna Stoil (28 March 2011). "Knesset passes law revoking citizenship for treason". Jerusalem Post. 
  4. ^ a b "Board of Directors". Arab Center for Research & Policy Studies. 
  5. ^ a b c Rory McCarthy (24 July 2007). "Wanted, for crimes against the state". The Guardian (London). 
  6. ^ a b c "1999 Knesset elections: Azmi Bishara". Jerusalem Post. 1999. Retrieved 11 March 2007. 
  7. ^ "1980–1986: جامعة هومبولون برلين. تخرج منها بشهادة دكتوراة في الفلسفة بإمتياز."
    "1986–1996: محاضر الفلسفة والدراسات الثقافية، جامعة بير زيت."
    "1980–1986: Humboldt University, Berlin. He graduated cum-laude with a PhD in Philosophy."
    "1986–1996: Lecturer in Philosophy and Cultural Studies, Bir-Zeyt University."
    Bio of Azmi Bishara (in Arabic) from the official NDA website at the Wayback Machine (archived October 11, 2003) Accessed 24 February 2007
  8. ^ Bishara's English bio at Adalah
  9. ^ "Azmi Bishara – National Democratic Alliance". Haaretz. 21 December 2002. Retrieved 11 March 2007. 
  10. ^ "Muwatin website". 
  11. ^ "Arab Democracy Foundation website". 
  12. ^ a b Roula Khalaf and Abigail Fielding-Smith (17 May 2013). "How Qatar seized control of the Syrian revolution". The Financial Times Magazine. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  13. ^ "Balad: A country of all its citizens, cultural autonomy for Arabs". Haaretz. 23 December 2002. 
  14. ^ "Profile: Israel's Arab voice". BBC News. 9 January 2003. 
  15. ^ "Healing a national wound". BBC News. 21 May 1999. Retrieved 18 April 2007. 
  16. ^ "High Court overturns disqualifications of Tibi, Bishara". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 24 February 2007. 
  17. ^ "Israel's Knesset Votes to Revoke Immunity From Popular Palestinian Member of Parliament Azmi Bishara". 
  18. ^ "Bar-On wants passports of Arab MKs who visited Syria revoked". Haaretz. 11 September 2006. 
  19. ^ a b Israeli Arabs caught in middle
  20. ^ "MK Bishara warns Syria of Israeli attack". Ynetnews. 9 September 2006. 
  21. ^ "Balad MKs praise Hizbullah resistance". Jerusalem Post. 15 September 2006. 
  22. ^ "Bar-On wants passports of Arab MKs who visited Syria revoked". Haaretz. 11 September 2006. 
  23. ^ a b "Balad Chairman Bishara: I cannot receive a fair trial in Israel". Haaretz. Archived from the original on 27 April 2007. Retrieved 28 April 2007. 
  24. ^ "Report: MK Bishara leaves Egypt". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 25 April 2007. 
  25. ^ Gag Order on investigation of ex-MK Bishara to be lifted Wednesday. Haaretz. 2 May 2007
  26. ^ Bishara recommended that Hizbullah attack south of Haifa Ynetnews. Retrieved 3 May 2007
  27. ^ Bishara suspected of aiding enemy during Lebanon war Ynetnews. Retrieved 25 April 2007
  28. ^ Bishara suspected of aiding enemies during Second Lebanon War Haaretz. Retrieved 25 April 2007
  29. ^ Thousands protest in Nazareth in support of former MK Bishara Haaretz. Retrieved 28 April 2007
  30. ^ Balad's MK-to-be: 'Anti-Israelization' conscientious objector Haaretz. Retrieved 3 May 2007
  31. ^ "Dr. Azmi Bishara, Biography". Azmi Bishara Website. Retrieved 24 October 2015. 
  32. ^ At a glance Al-Ahram Weekly. Retrieved 30 April 2007
  33. ^ "La Palestine fragmentée". Le Monde Diplomatique. Retrieved 30 April 2007. 
  34. ^ "כיסופים בארץ המחסומים". Babel. 2005. 
  35. ^ "Asmi Bischara, Checkpoint. Bericht aus einem zerteilten Land. Aus dem Arabischen von Hartmut Fähndrich". Lenos Verlag, Zürich 2006. ISBN 3-85787-377-9. 
  36. ^ "Culture 101: A roundup of the month's news in the arts and culture". Egypt Today. Archived from the original on 17 May 2007. Retrieved 30 April 2007. 
  37. ^ a b "Azmi Bishara" in the Library of Congress Online Catalog
  38. ^ "Azmi Bishara" in the catalog of the Jewish National and University Library
  39. ^ List of laureates of the Ibn Rushd prize for freedom of thought The Ibn-Rushd foundation
  40. ^ Global Exchange 3rd Annual Human Rights Awards Ceremony Global Exchange, 22 May 2003

External links[edit]