In the face of a nationalistic mayoral campaign by the local Likud chapter, a group of Jews and Arabs in Karmiel choose to focus on eliminating gaps, building public housing and creating a city where everyone can live together as equals.
By Dov Caller and Alan Traister
“If the Arabs keep coming, Jews will leave and we will even end up with an Arab mayor. The attempt to elect representatives of the Arab community to the city council shows that Karmiel is on the way to becoming a mixed city. Karmiel of 2013 is fighting for its life as a Jewish and Zionist city.” – Attorney Koron Noimark, Chairman of the Likud election committee.
It’s happening again. Every four years, when municipal elections come around, the genie of nationalistic fear and hatred is let out of the bottle. In Karmiel, this is the time when Arab migration to the city becomes the main topic of conversation. A typical letter to the editor reads: “Here, the country grants them all their rights, security, stability, and a good life while they return nothing to the country — their own country — nothing.”
Almost all of the political groupings stress the dangers to Karmiel posed by an Arab population that is rapidly growing because young Arab professionals and their families want to improve the quality of their housing, all the while finding it increasingly difficult to build legally in the neighboring villages.
In order to combat Karmiel’s recurring nationalistic fear of reality, a group of Jewish and Arab men and women, supported by political parties Meretz and Hadash, have joined together to create a new list called “Karmiel Rainbow for Social Justice” which is running in the municipal elections that will be held on October 22, 2013. We believe this to have far more significance than just the local election itself.
Challenging the Status-Quo
Karmiel Rainbow for Social Justice was started by a handful of Arabs and Jews already living in Karmiel, who discovered that they have shared ideologically interests. They formed a political platform that enables activists from both communities to work together toward a pluralistic and social democratic city with equality for all the different groups living in the city. This outlook is very different from the long-held nationalistic values that have been entrenched in the municipal government of Mayor Adi Aldar, who has held office for 24 years, as well as all of the municipal opposition parties.
Karmiel Rainbow brings a platform to the local election based upon the values of social justice and political pluralism as expressed in “Another Way is Possible: a Roadmap to a Better Society” (edited by Professors Yossi Yonah and Aviah Spivak), which followed the social protests of 2011. The document features two basic principles: the elimination of inequality and poverty and gradual increases in the state budget “to get the wheels of development moving for all the country’s citizens.”
It calls for an improvement in living standards and seeks upgraded public services. It proposes greater “access to health care, education, housing, social welfare, personal safety and transportation.” It also seeks to eliminate gaps between the center of the country and outlying areas, and to greatly increase the availability of public housing.
Following these ideas, Karmiel Rainbow for Social Justice wants to open up the long suppressed dialogue about a city where Arabs and Jews can live together as equals. Karmiel Rainbow opposes any attempt by extremist political groups who reject the desire of many of Karmiel’s citizens to work for equality and social justice based on an understanding of the benefits of a prosperous, pluralistic society — one that could become a model for all of Israel.
Dov Caller is an educator and teacher from Karmiel who has long been active in the peace and social justice movements. He is the spokesperson for Karmiel Rainbow. Alan Traister is a semi-retired teacher.