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Spitting in the face of Israel's Arab citizens

The success of the Joint List is the Arab public’s message — an outstretched hand — to its Jewish compatriots, which is the antithesis of the message it received in return.

By Haggai Matar and Yael Marom

Benjamin Netanyahu gives a victory speech on election night, March 18, 2015. (Photo: +972 Magazine)

Benjamin Netanyahu gives a victory speech on election night, March 18, 2015. (Photo: +972 Magazine)

Nearly one quarter of Israeli voters cast their ballots for a prime minister whose central message to the public on election day was that Arab citizens of Israel are the enemy.

An almost equal number of people cast their votes for: the guy who joined him in delivering that message, the head of the most right-wing party in the Knesset (Naftali Bennett); the guy who based his entire campaign on incitement against Arabs (Avigdor Liberman); the guy who said he would not sit in a government that relies on the votes of Arabs (Moshe Kahlon); and, the guy who rejected an outstretched hand from the Arab parties offering to form an alliance of the oppressed (Arye Deri). Their levels of support are even higher if you look only at the Jewish voting public.

Meet the 34th government of Israel, ladies and gentlemen.

Do not discount the message delivered at the ballot box on Tuesday, especially considering the massive victory of the Joint List, the third-largest party in the next Knesset. With 14 seats representing over 400,000 voters, and with above-average voter participation, the success of the Joint List is the Palestinian public in Israel’s message to its Jewish compatriots, which was the antithesis of the message it got in return.

For weeks, Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh has been all over Israeli television, radio, newspapers and every type of online media. He broadcast a message of openness, of partnership, of striving for equality, of democracy, of a struggle for social justice — for all Israelis. He spoke of reconciliation and of turning a new leaf.

Tuesday night, when Israeli television was busy interviewing every politician in the land, save for those gathered in Nazareth, long before there was a clear picture of the results, Odeh and MK Dov Khenin sent a message to Isaac Herzog. They told him they would recommend him as the next prime minister if he took them on as partners. It could have been historic.

Joint List MKs celebrate on election night, Nazareth, March 17, 2015. (Akron Darwishi/Activestills.org)

Joint List MKs celebrate on election night, Nazareth, March 17, 2015. (Akron Darwishi/Activestills.org)

That outstretched hand should not be taken for granted. These elections came after two years in which the Knesset did everything in its power to broadcast to the Arab public that it doesn’t deserve representation (from raising the electoral threshold to the attempted disqualification of MK Haneen Zoabi). Even Yair Lapid and the Zionist Camp took part in that.

That outstretched hand should not be taken for granted after a summer in which Israel launched a war in Gaza and killed over 2,000 Palestinians. The same summer in which incitement by government ministers and members of Knesset against the Arab public reached new heights, in which we say waves of Palestinians being fired from their jobs, attacks on the streets, mass arrests of hundreds of protesters, among them children and public figures, of police shooting to death Arabs because they are Arabs. And all of that goes without mentioning the decades of home demolitions, land appropriations, discrimination in budgeting and much more.

If you take everything the Palestinian public in Israel has gone through, especially in recent months, and if you then look at the overwhelming vote for a message of hope and partnership espoused by Ayman Odeh and the Joint List — only then can you understand just how extreme the landscape has become. Only then can you see just how outstretched his hand was, and how ugly the spit directed at their faces was.

The answer to the 34th government of Israel must be an opposition that prioritizes Jewish-Arab partnership. It must be the project of the Left as it faces down what will likely be a large, murky wave of hostile and racist legislation and policies. Just as important, that partnership must be there to address the very real danger that the Palestinian public might simply give up on the Jews, for reasons that are understandable and even justified, instead choosing to disengage from the political system that spat in its face.

We must emphasize our work together, our joint struggle — our coherent opposition to the occupation and discrimination, to the corruption of politics, to the continued assault on whatever traces of democracy remain here. Get ready.

Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where this article was originally published in Hebrew.

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    1. Whiplash

      As Jackie Gleason used to say “how sweet it is!” Someone should tell Matar and Marom to stop crying in their beer. It will cause their beer to taste very bitter indeed as we can tell from their ranting in this article. Arab Israeli Knesset members from the joint list will have no power in the forthcoming right wing government. The Arab Joint List will likely not survive as a party but divide back into several impotent parties once again. This is a good thing since Arab leaders have consistently sought the destruction of the Jewish state and have supported Israel’s enemies in times of war and peace. They have been more concerned about their Arab cousins than the welfare of Israeli Arabs.

      Now hopefully Netanyahu will make good on his promise to prevent a Palestinian state and solve the Israeli housing probem. He can do both by annexing Area “C” and begin massive building for Israelis.

      Reply to Comment
      • JBerg

        Wow. You are disgraceful. And shameful.

        Reply to Comment
      • Gertrude Rubinstein

        What a hypocrite you are. So- its OK if your “team” does it- but if the other team engages in the same action its wrong? Your comment embodies perfectly what is sick in the state of Israel. Racism and hard right nationalism. You are precisely the bad that Yeshayahu Leibowitz predicted all those years ago. If Israel continues with these genocidal attitudes- she will self destruct and stoke the flames of Jewish hatred globally. Your attitude simply disgusts me as an American Jew.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kareem Jeans

          @Gertrude, “genocidal attitudes”? Get out of here with this nonsense. You sound like a child. And a slow one at that.

          Reply to Comment
      • Weiss

        Disgusting is an understatement to describe that racist rant.

        Jews celebrating the victory of the Fascists is the equivalent of Jews drinking the blood of other Jews…

        But don’t fret my fellow Jewish moderates …

        The Fascist Leaders of Israel are the poster boys of Israeli Apartheid and will ultimately be the catalyst for the International community to IMPOSE a Palestinian State upon these obstinate warmongers.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kareem Jeans

          Hey Weisssss,
          Taste it you bitch.

          PS: Bilaldi is right. You are a false-flag imposter. And so bitchy too.

          Reply to Comment
        • Hilo

          The way things are going the international community will ‘impose’ an official state on the Palestinians in Gaza and areas A+B. Then we’ll have a referendum in the rest of the territory which will vote for union with Israel. I don’t really see anyone sending military force to dislodge Israel and so we will have a two state solution at last.

          Reply to Comment
    2. Bar

      Were we watching the same election? Odeh was given access to all the airwaves, media and his party was given due process in the courts where Zoabi’s ejection from the election was overturned. Israeli society didn’t reject the Arab party and treated them respectfully. For example, Herzog explicitly stated the Arab party should be respected.

      And yet, the Joint List announced they would not join a coalition with any “Zionist” party. Zoabi announced the Joint List was a participant in the “Palestinian national project.” And they continually denounced Israel and its society in countless ways.

      So if we’re to bring the spitting analogy to the table, perhaps we should talk about the Joint List spitting on the country and people who have given them rights no other Arabs enjoy in the Middle East? Spitting is making demands and accepting benefits while spitting on your “Zionist” neighbor and refusing to give or participate in what makes the country work. No national service for most, no military service for most, Insufficient taxes paid to local municipalities and open support for those forces that seek to destroy Israel. Is that really a party making overtures to Israel society?

      And yet, and yet, the author and others like him want Israelis to live in a vacuum and pretend they don’t see any of this. Nobody is stupid and nobody is blind. In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Don Graham

      “Native Americans” may have some appreciation for the difficulties Arab Israelis face, and will continue to face; however, Just List now has influence in the Knesset that some of the “religious” parties no longer have. I can’t image Just List has any desire to become part of the government for obvious reasons, Neither can they be considered part of “the loyal opposition” for the same reasons. I hope I am not alone in applauding their efforts to overcome the religious and racial hatred under which they still attempt to survive. Best wishes.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Joel Cantor

      I am looking forward to +972 magazine’s corresponding and analagous article on Arab States’ Jewish Citizens.

      Are they participating in building a Jewish Joint List?

      Oh, I forgot – there are virtually none left. Apart from 1 tiny hamlet in Tunisia and a handful in Casablanca, the other 1 million Jews were ethnically cleansed & their property confiscated by Arabs.

      Reply to Comment