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Jewish-Arab partnership as an antidote to Jewish supremacism

We need to redefine Israeli politics. No more left and right, liberal or conservative, religious versus secular. Instead: a new partnership of Arabs and Jews, working side-by-side to combat Jewish supremacism.

By Meron Rapoport and Ameer Fakhoury

A Jewish Israeli man holding an Israeli flag confronts a Palestinian woman holding a kaffiyeh on the sidelines of the ultra-nationalist "Jerusalem Day" march, May 13, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A Jewish Israeli man holding an Israeli flag confronts a Palestinian woman holding a kaffiyeh on the sidelines of the ultra-nationalist “Jerusalem Day” march, May 13, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel has been at a political dead end for many months, particularly since the most recent national election in September. The outgoing prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has only 55 of the 61 mandates required to form a governing coalition. Benny Gantz, the head of the Blue and White party, says he wants to form a “liberal unity government” with Likud and Avigdor Liberman, but he, too, lacks the necessary 61 seats, and thus far he has not succeeded in detaching any of the 55 mandates from Netanyahu’s bloc. Lieberman is determined to take Netanyahu down, but if he were to join a center-left coalition, he would torpedo the political career he built on far-right secular nationalism and hatred of Arabs. So, he is sitting on the fence.

The only way out of this paralysis is a minority government coalition composed of Blue and White, Labor-Gesher, and the Democratic Camp, with the support of the Joint List — and without Liberman. Blue and White, however, is not quite ready for this move. Nor are its potential political allies prepared to bridge the gaps between their disparate views. 

This situation encapsulates the argument for creating a new political movement that is based on shared values. Instead of continuing to define as right or left, liberal or conservative, religious or secular, we need a political and civil society partnership between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel who share a commitment to combating Israel’s greatest national threat: Jewish supremacism.

This Arab-Jewish partnership need not be connected to any single political party. All its potential adherents would need is a shared understanding that a truly democratic government and an end to the conflict requires equal citizenship for Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel, and that a political partnership between the two peoples will have a mobilizing influence both on Israel and on the entire region between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.

Given today’s political map, such a movement could be represented by a partnership between the Joint List, Labor-Bridge and the Democratic Camp. There are significant ideological differences between each of these parties, but they all share the view that equal rights for all Israeli citizens is a crucial issue, and that securing those rights can only be achieved through some type of cross-party political partnership.

There are 24 mandates in the current Knesset that would potentially be amenable to a partnership, and that number could grow. Voter turnout among Arab-Palestinian citizens increased in recent election cycles, going as high as 59 percent. Turnout for local elections goes as high as 85 percent. If Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel were convinced that there was a true Arab-Jewish partnership committed to equality for all citizens, the turnout could rise even further. Potentially, a coalition of parties that share the commitment to combating Jewish supremacism could have 30 seats in the Knesset.

Partnership does not prescribe the merging — or erasure — of the two distinct national groups in Israel into one. However, it must establish an equitable foundation for both, as collectives and as individuals, in which neither group has superiority over the other. This partnership is based on a recognition that both the Palestinian and Jewish citizens of this land are members of co-nations.

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The discourse around this partnership should not be limited to ethical questions. Many Israelis, regardless of their political leanings, understand today that two nations exist in Israel. This is our reality. If the partnership movement realizes how to link its values to this reality, it might find supporters even unlikely places that seem far-fetched today. This will be challenging, but the need to confront rising anti-democratic trends might lead to crossing lines that previously seemed impossible.

A movement based on partnership between Arabs and Jews would set an aspirational standard for the entire region between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. Instead of fighting for a two-state solution divided by a hostile border, it would aspire to a border based on partnership — because a border that is created and maintained with hostility is demographically, geographically, economically, and emotionally impossible. 

According to long-held received wisdom, equal civil rights for Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel will only come after a two-state solution is negotiated and implemented. This, obviously, has not come to pass. The proponents of a new political movement based on partnership between Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel believe the opposite — that the resolution to the conflict will come from Israel proper, within the Green Line, and will spread outward.

This civil partnership can also create a new political identity, which is predicated on a shared national sensibility. This does mean an erasure of national identity, but rather the birth of a collegial commitment to a shared nationality, of two national groups that take pride in their respective identities but understand that the best way to express their it is through a partnership between the two groups. Their shared goal: to combat Jewish supremacism, as Jewish and Arab co-nationalists.

Partnership is a political position that can inspire a new political identity which, in turn, can create the political force necessary for its realization. Liberalism and democracy are the pillars of this movement, but not the only ones. Particular national identity can also inform this movement, as long as it does not demand superiority.

This is not a melting pot movement. Rather, it is one of unity through partnership, while maintaining a respect for separate national identities. In the territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan, the real struggle is between Jewish supremacy and co-nationalism. Each and every one of us must choose a side.

Meron Rapoport is an editor at Local Call, where a version of this article first appeared in Hebrew. Read it here. Ameer Fakhoury is a Palestinian citizen of Israel and the head of the School for Peace Research Center at Wahat al-Salam-Neve Shalom. Both Fakhoury and Rapoport are members of the “A Land for All” movement.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Lewis from Afula

      I disagree with Moron.
      I support Jewish-Arab partnership as an antidote to Arab Supremacism ie PLO terrorist ideology.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        This comes close to being one of those self-refuting statements Trump is prone to. (“I am a very stable genius. With a big brain.”)

        Reply to Comment
        • Rivka Koen

          “I think I am much more humble than you would understand.”

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “I have a great relationship with the blacks.”

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Re: “I support Jewish-Arab partnership as an antidote to Arab Supremacism ie PLO terrorist ideology.”

            I see no problem with this sentence.
            This is despite the irrational sneers delivered by our retarded Leftist friends.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            You have an odd concept of partnership. When one proposes marriage one should say to the prospective partner, “Let’s be partners, dear one, as soon as I get done kicking your relatives the hell out of town”? Yeah, Trump might say something like that. And follow it with “I have a very good brain.”

            Reply to Comment
    2. Bruce Gould

      In case anyone missed the link at the end, here’s the “A Land For All” website:

      https://www.alandforall.org/english/?d=ltr

      “Two nations live here in this land, and both want to live peacefully and safely. Solutions entailing separation have failed in the past, and will fail in the future. Cooperation, however, succeeds. There is a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and it is right here in front of us. Do you choose to “live by your sword”? Or can you put your fears aside?…”

      Reply to Comment
      • Itshak Gordine

        We have seen how coexistence has worked for example in Syria, in Lebanon (between Christians and Muslims), in former Yugoslavia, etc. Civil wars that have cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. The Arab minority must behave in an exemplary manner, like the Jews in the diaspora, (and not in terrorist / criminal association). And she must enjoy security, work, social protection, etc.
        Coexistence is n

        Reply to Comment
    3. Itshak Gordine

      We have seen how coexistence has worked for example in Syria, in Lebanon (between Christians and Muslims), in former Yugoslavia, etc. Civil wars that have cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. The Arab minority must behave in an exemplary manner, like the Jews in the diaspora, (and not in terrorist / criminal association). And she must enjoy security, work, social protection, etc.
      Coexistence is n

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        “We have seen how coexistence has worked for example…”

        I know it’s hard to believe, but you might have missed the point being made about the territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan:

        “civil partnership …shared national sensibility…the birth of a collegial commitment to a shared nationality…partnership between the two groups… combat Jewish supremacism, as Jewish and Arab co-nationalists…inspire a new political identity … unity through partnership…in the territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan, the real struggle is between Jewish supremacy and co-nationalism.”

        I have seen how coexistence has worked for example with Jewish nationalists in the holy land. “The Arab minority must behave”—would be nice to get the Jews to behave too, don’tcha think?:
        The Settlers who beat me…
        https://972mag.com/settlers-yitzhar-orthodox-burin/144101/

        I have seen how coexistence has worked for example with the European Christians against that exemplary-behaved minority, the 20th century Jews of Europe, I have seen how how coexistence has worked for example with the murderous demagogic Christian Slav Slobodan Milosevic stirring up hatred and bloodshed and genocide against Muslims in the service of a national-religious land-grabbing ideology. I have seen how coexistence has worked for example with the murderous Chinese leadership savagely persecuting and culturally genociding the Muslin Uighur minority. Etc. Yes I have seen that. And in none of these cases was it “the Arabs” who were the bad guys.

        Your attempt to demonize all Muslims and all Arabs and lump them all into one seething horde and thus delegitimize the Palestinians is transparent. And your attempt to shut down any consideration of a workable shared future (the only real solution) is striking. Really you are strikingly brazen about this and lazy about this. You seem to think that anti-Arab hatred is still the last PC from of hatred, and so what’s the problem?, when in fact it is only the latest form in a long line of sectarian hatreds, about which you as a Jew ought to be far more aware and less hypocritical.

        Reply to Comment
    4. David Kreiselman

      A minority gov’t? Interesting idea. Whats to prevent the opposition parties from taking a no-confidence vote in the Knesset and shutting the whole thing down inside of a month?

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ben

      The thing you have to realize is how far from Jewish-Arab partnership the Israeli government and its supporting populace have moved. You have to realize that to a significant degree Israel has already become Naftali Bennet’s Israel. Netanyahu can rail against Iran but he and Bennett and allies have turned Israel into the Jewish version of Iran. It’s more subtle than Iran does it, and less out in the open, but it is the same kind of national-religious state enterprise. The Hardali far right types love this. But realize, the premise that Israel belongs in the club of modern western democracies has become a pretense:

      Israeli Schools Teach Pro-settler Religious Nationalism Is the Only Way to Be Jewish
      Raising a pious, pro-settler generation: Israeli schoolkids are now targets of a state-sponsored campaign of political and religious indoctrination

      “… It’s time we faced the truth: In recent years, Israel’s education ministry has pushed a hidden agenda. Not only is it moving our kids towards a more Orthodox approach to their Jewish identity, but it is pushing them to the political right, too….
      Another window of opportunity for religious nationalist influence in secular schools presents itself in 11th grade: “Masa Yisraeli” (Israeli Journey). The 6 day-long seminar for high school juniors heavily subsidized by the Ministry of Education to the tune of tens of millions of shekels each year is the monopoly player in the market of “identity-forming journeys.”…
      Participants report that the overriding atmosphere that the organizers try and foster is permeated by extreme nationalism, supremacism and an “us against them” mindset; counsellors spoke out against a secular Jewish lifestyle and suggested Arabs have no place here in the Jewish state. In some instances, educators push students to try Orthodox Jewish practice…”
      https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-how-israeli-schools-teach-religious-nationalism-as-the-only-way-to-be-jewish-1.8061651

      Reply to Comment
      • Lewis from Afula

        Why not repatriate all JORDANIANS home ?
        Then, we won’t be occupying anybody will we ?
        Its the only strategy that we have not yet tried.
        Go on, why not give MASS TRANSFER a chance ?

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Have you considered becoming an Israeli Education Ministry-funded Masa Yisraeli tour guide? You’d fit right in. Thanks for making my point. They’d love you. You’re fond of these pseudo-“deductive,” “there’s only one thing left” pseudo-analyses, all meant to trot out your perseverative mass transfer schtick. But it never goes over here. Why not channel your efforts into a focused indoctrination of Israeli youth? You’d have a much more easily fooled audience. And make money doing it.

          Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Ben:
            Have you ever thought of entering the Lunatic Leftist of the Year Competition ?
            You have a very good chance of winning.
            First prize is a one way mission to Syria where you will be im charge of reconciliation between Sunnis & Shiites.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            If I go to Israel to work on reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, or god forbid, work on human rights (the horror!) I will be told “Leftist foreigner out!” That famous Israeli “hospitality.”

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Yes, if Ben moved to Israel, he’d have to form a new Party just for himself.
            It would be more extreme than Balad and it would be based on ISIS ideology – just to prove how truely radical the Comrade’s views are.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I’ll let the stupidity of this speak for itself.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Indeed, Ben !

            Reply to Comment
    6. Malthus Anderson, Cairns, Australia.

      A wonderful concept. We can only hope the participants are big enough to accept it.

      Reply to Comment
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