Kadima must lead the fight against racism in Knesset
Kadima's commitment to human rights and citizen equality is cast in doubt, owing to party members' support for proposed racist and anti-democratic laws.
On Tuesday, the Knesset hosted an "Emergency Conference for Democracy," featuring the participation of MKs who are active with social organizations, and various public figures. Out of 28 parliamentarians who took part in the initiative, 11 belonged to the Kadima party. Whoever is worried about the future of Israeli democracy should welcome the mobilization of members of the main opposition party in this struggle over the character of the state: a dark, racist and discriminating state, or, on the other hand, a state dedicated to equality, which faithfully carries out its responsibilities toward its citizens, including Arab citizens.
Yet Kadima's commitment to human rights and citizen equality is cast in doubt, owing to party members' support for proposed racist and anti-democratic laws. MK Shai Hermesh, one of the conference's initiators, signed onto a proposed law for admission committees on communal settlements that would enable them to disqualify candidates for residency due to the "candidate's lack of suitability for the social fabric of the community." In practice, this would prevent Arabs from being admitted as members of Jewish communal villages, in a fashion that would bypass the High Court's ruling in the Kaadan case, holding that the leasing of state land exclusively to Jews constitutes unlawful discrimination. Two other Kadima MKs, Gideon Ezra and Otniel Schneller, are signed to a proposed law that aims to prevent the employment of Palestinian tour guides in East Jerusalem, owing to the "inappropriate presentation of national interest". (Their party colleague, MK Nachman Shai, signed his name to the bill, but then revoked his sponsorship ).
A number of racist, anti-democratic bills will reach the Knesset rostrum during the parliament's winter session. Their aim is to suppress political demands and expressions of protest voiced by the Arab community. The main opposition party should lead opposition to these proposed laws and mobilize to thwart their legislation. That is Kadima's task right now.
However, regrettable positions expressed by some members of the party in speeches and in legislative actions, in addition to the silence of party leader Tzipi Livni, inspire considerable concern. The opposition should not cooperate with anti-democratic legislation, either in deed or tacit consent. Kadima faces the test of presenting a forceful position against racism; not only during a one-time conference, but also throughout the committee's session, and in the work of its committees.