Opinion

Palestinian Citizens of Israel, Please Go Out and Vote the Joint List

Joint List leaders at campaign event in Tel Aviv, August 20, 2019.
David Bachar

Voting in the election does not mean recognition of a state that was forced on you, but just the opposite. The importance and value of the Joint List at the present political-historical junction are far greater than the sum of its flaws and weaknesses

This is a plea to my Palestinian friends, natives of the country, Israeli citizens against their will, who are planning once again not to vote in the coming election: Please vote, and vote for the Joint List.

It’s the only party whose very existence, despite its internal contradictions, conflicts and weaknesses, is standing up against the delusions of the final expulsion, that are being cooked up in this disturbed and dangerous  Israeli-Jewish society.

The importance and value of the Joint List at the present political-historical junction are greater than the sum of all the human traits, mistakes and flaws of its representatives.

Casting a ballot does not mean recognition of the state that was forced on you, but just the opposite: By voting you are forcing it and its institutions to acknowledge you, as natives of this country.

You are forcing its Jewish citizens, who are denying history, to admit, even if implicitly, that your rights in it stem not from its existence and from the Law of Return but from your deep roots here.

The right – today the majority in the Israeli-Jewish nation – hopes for a Knesset free of genuine representatives of the Palestinian population. Why do what it wishes, why play into its hands? Why not decide: Let’s give this dangerous right the finger, in the guise of higher than usual voter turnout.

The incitement against the Palestinians that is being skillfully aroused by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his lackeys, is not meant solely to guarantee a parliamentary majority for his immunity from prosecution.

Their incitement is authentic and comes straight from their hearts. The Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line are a superfluous population for them. The representation of Palestinian citizens in the Knesset drives them crazy. The incitement and lies about you are meant to remove you from the public eye and from politics. Such a disappearance from the political arena would make other types of removal easier – and if they haven’t been planned as yet – they are likely to emerge in the familiar process of nations becoming accustomed to the erosion of universal basic values.

But the reality is stronger than the desires and delusions of the Israeli right. Palestinian citizens – as opposed to their brothers and sisters on the other side of the Green Line – are part of the public space in Israel. In spite of all attempts to the contrary, they are not at all superfluous to the country’s economy and society. On the contrary. They, you, are very much needed.

Without denying the built-in discrimination in salaries and work opportunities, you work and make a living in Israel, although many of you feel a profound alienation from all its institutions. The superfluous nature of the Palestinians in the consciousness of the Israeli majority is reflected in the huge number of construction workers – most of whom are Palestinians - who are killed and injured in work accidents. 

You pay taxes, and those taxes also pay for the continued acts of oppression and expropriation on both sides of the Green Line. You attend and have attended educational institutions in this country, and you have an impressive and prominent presence in other vital professions such as medicine, nursing, law, the plastic arts, theater and film.

You pay health insurance and when necessary receive medical care in the problematic public health system, which is still functioning. You peruse public transportation and drive on the roads with Jewish Israelis, with whom you have no common language despite your fluent Hebrew.

Because we Jews have robbed most of the land of your villages and cities, you live in Carmiel, “Nof Hagalil” (Upper Nazareth) and even in the settlements within the borders of Jerusalem (like Pisgat Ze’ev and French Hill).

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In brief: The situation is full of contradictions, and people live with them. And here are a few more: You travel abroad with your Israeli passport. Your status as citizens prevents Israel from revoking it – as it can revoke at any moment the residency status of Palestinians in Jerusalem, as it has done to hundreds of thousands residents of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank who traveled abroad, and as it would like to do to you, but cannot.

Your citizenship status not only enables you to exercise your right to freedom of movement between the sea and the Jordan River (which is denied to residents of the West Bank and Gaza), it also allows you the freedom of movement to go abroad.

You probably know how difficult it is for other Palestinians to obtain a visa for European countries, the United States and Canada, and Asian countries. Many do not receive visas. Please don’t misunderstand me: You deserve all those by full right, not as a favor. And it is logical and natural for you not to give up this right in exchange for the symbolism inherent in a refusal to carry a passport bearing a symbol of Israel.

Both sides are obligated to tolerate the contradictions. The state that does not consider you as equal citizens and hopes for your disappearance is forced to accept your non-absentee presence. There is considerable evidence that it isn’t interested in you (the humiliating treatment at the airport, for example) and evidence that it’s not succeeding. You’re here.

And you are also tolerating them: The state does not represent you, you derive emotional satisfaction from the act of not voting, but you are part of the society. No symbolic gesture will change that. I’m not deceiving myself. The existence of a strong Arab slate in the Knesset cannot in and of itself put an end to the visions of expulsion being nurtured by Jewish Israelis, as proven by the nation-state law. But without the List’s strong presence in the Knesset, it will be much easier for them to nurture delusions about your final expulsion.

The right hopes for a Knesset free of genuine Palestinian representatives. Why do what it wishes, why play into its hands?