Joint Arab Election List Criticized for Lack of Effective Messaging, Campaigning

Despite a feeling of euphoria following the Joint List's establishment, activists worry that mutual suspicions, lack of unity will hurt turnout, slate's electoral chances.

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Knesset members join hands after the announcement of the Joint List's formation at a press conference in Nazareth, Jan. 23, 2015.
Knesset members join hands after the announcement of the Joint List's formation at a press conference in Nazareth, Jan. 23, 2015.Credit: Reuters
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Just two weeks ago, the Joint List was formed, consisting of four predominately Arab parties – the Islamic Movement, Balad, Ta’al and the Arab-Jewish party Hadash. Despite initial excitement over its formation, the parties have so far been unable to overcome mutual suspicion or find the best means of cooperation.

Complaints have begun to emerge among Israel’s Arab citizens that the Joint List lacks a well-organized campaign with clear messaging and an effective action plan to encourage constituents to go to the polls.

Key activists on the joint slate conceded in conversation with Haaretz that things are moving slowly and so far not a single campaign sign has gone up in any Arab community.

“Everything requires everyone’s approval, everybody wants their own people in, each party tries to promote its own people for interviews. That means there’s no single campaign and without a doubt this can be felt in the field. Until now everyone was caught up in the euphoria following the establishment of the joint slate, but that is not enough to get people out to vote,” an activist told Haaretz.

Haaretz has learned that since the Joint List was established, representatives of the four parties have met among themselves for hours almost daily, but there has yet to be a single large rally of the Joint List, nor an appearance of all the candidates together before audiences of the size the parties were able to muster separately in the last Knesset election campaign.

There is also a feeling on the reconciliation committee, established a few months ago, and which played a major role in the establishment of the Joint List, that things are moving too slowly, and so a meeting is to be held on Sunday of the party heads to move ahead with cooperative efforts. “We understand the criticism and we hear it too, and that’s why we’re holding the meeting,” said Prof. Mustafa Kabha, a member of the reconciliation committee.

“On the other hand, we know there is a lot of activity within the parties to go out to the street already and I believe this will gradually [increase] in the coming days and there will be major acceleration before Election Day,” Kabha said.

Kabha said the Joint List had committed itself to convey messages to the Arab public mainly to get people out to vote, “because the message of bringing down the Netanyahu government is worn out already; the Arab public has to receive encouraging messages about a better future and impacting political discourse in Israel,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Yousef Jabareen, a resident of Umm al-Fahm and number 10 on the Joint List, last week asked the Central Election Committee chairman Justice Salim Joubran to prohibit Yisrael Beiteinu from using the slogan “Ariel to Israel, Umm al-Fahm to Palestine,” in its election campaign.

The slogan, which refers to the large Israeli settlement in the West Bank and the biggest Arab city in Israel, essentially reiterates' Lieberman's "peace plan" envisioning the transfer of Israeli Arabs in exchange for economic incentives.

“It is not easy for a jurist like me to raise this request, because I am aware of the importance of the principle of freedom of political expression during elections.

However, there is the interest of the feeling of citizens, which might be very hurt in light of a racist expression. The slogan, ‘Ariel to Israel, Umm al-Fahm to Palestine’ is a direct call to coerced annulment of citizenship of part of the Arab citizens of the State of Israel,” which Jabareen says conveys a message of deligitimization.

“Portrayal of part of the Arab citizens of Israel as a security risk and a fifth column contributes significantly to the enflaming of racism and hatred toward these citizens and even encourages violence against them,” Jabareen wrote.

The Central Election Committee said it had not yet decided on the matter and that another request to ban the slogan had been submitted to the committee by MK Issawi Freij of Meretz. “Lieberman purports to be the lord of the land, who can decide who get citizenship and who doesn’t, but the citizenship of the residents of Umm al-Fahm does not depend on Lieberman or members of his party,” Freij wrote.

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