The Haifa-based Association for Arab Culture, founded by former Balad party MK Dr. Azmi Bishara, who fled the country to Qatar after being suspected of spying for Hezbollah, is one of the biggest beneficiaries of aid from Qatar, according to a Makor Rishon report on Friday.
Bishara founded this association 21 years ago, together with Jamal Zahalka, Bassel Ghatas and Mahmoud Mahareb, all of them leaders of the Arab party Balad.
Over the years and to this day, almost all the Balad MKs and their family members have worked for the Association for Arab Culture.
The National Democratic Alliance Party, or Balad, is an anti-Zionist and Arab-nationalist party which advocates turning the Jewish state into a “state of all its citizens.” The party was founded by Dr. Azmi Bishara in 1995, prior to the elections for the Fourteenth Knesset. Some of its candidates were convicted of terrorist activity or fled Israeli law to Arab countries.
Even though some of the founders of the Arab Culture Association had to depart for the above legal complications, the organization continues to be run by Balad activists. For example, former MK Basel Ghatas left the association after being sent to jail for smuggling cellphones to terrorist prisoners, but his wife, Sawsan Ghatas, has taken his seat on the board of directors,.
Over the past decade alone, Qatar has sent tens of millions of shekels to the organization. For example, at the beginning of the decade, the Qatari Ministry of Finance transferred $6 million to buy a building in Haifa to serve as a cultural center. The property, Chen Cinema, was purchased by the association from the Maccabi Haifa sports club, despite protests by right-wingers in the city.
Two years later, in 2012, more than 15 million shekels were transferred to the Association’s scholarship project. The money came through the British charity The Galilee Foundation, which annually transfers large sums for scholarships to Israeli Arab students. The Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the charitable Foundation is an Israeli citizen, Dr. Marwan Bishara, a senior al-Jazeera journalist and the brother of the escaped spy Azmi Bishara.
According to charity documents, the budget for the scholarships which are handed out by the Association for Arab Culture comes from Qatar. In 2018, Qatar transferred to the Association for Arab Culture, via the British charity, $772,000 for scholarships to Israeli Arab students.
In 2017, 4.3 million shekels were transferred to the scholarship project, and in each of the previous three years, 2.5 million shekels was sent to the association. In 2012, 1.2 million shekels were transferred.
Many students who receive scholarships from the association, funded with Qatari money, must participate in the events and activities of the Association, and are required to take a course dealing with “ethnic cleansing in Palestine” by Israel.
According to Makor Rishon, the Galilee Foundation is donating funds to other organizations affiliated with Balad, including the Mada al-Carmel organization, headed by Dr. Mtanes Shehadeh, now chairman of Balad. Today, former MK Hanin Zoabi, rejected by the party primary voters, is working there.
Funds were also transferred to the Bladna youth organization, which wages war against young Arabs who choose to enlist in the IDF and national service.