Arab Alliance Struggles to Get Voters Fired Up Ahead of Israel's Election

'We’re two weeks from the election and we don’t feel any movement,' campaign worker for the four-party Joint List says amid fears that dull messaging would keep many Arab voters at home on September 17

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Joint List campaign posters, September 5, 2019.
Joint List campaign posters, September 5, 2019.Credit: Moti Milrod
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Campaigners for the four factions in the Joint List alliance of Arab-majority parties say they fear their efforts are floundering, with the parties’ dull messaging making it hard to bring out the vote for the September 17 election. (For the latest election polls – click here)

Haaretz Weekly Episode 38Credit: Haaretz

The four parties running on the Joint list slate are Balad, Hadash, Ta’al and United Arab List. In April, Hadash ran with Ta’al, while Balad ran with the United Arab List. The two alliances won 10 of the Knesset’s 120 seats. In the 2015 election, the first one in which the Joint List ran, it won 13 seats.

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“We’re two weeks from the election and we don’t feel any movement,” campaign worker Jamal Daka told Haaretz. “Press coverage of the Joint List is very thin. True, there are gatherings and parlor meetings, but this isn’t enough if you really want to create an atmosphere different from the April election.”

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Another senior campaign worker said the Zionist parties were investing more money in the campaign in the Arabic-speaking community than the Joint List was. He complained that most efforts so far amounted to Knesset members appealing to voters on social media, but “there is still no feeling that the Joint List is active within Arab society and using all the tools at its disposal.”

Former MK Jamal Zahalka, who still serves as chairman of the Balad party, says there is still time to turn things around.

Joint List candidates at the launch of their election campaign, August 2019.Credit: David Bachar

“The fundamentals and the potential are very strong, but it’s not taking off for some reason,” he said. “We have to sharpen the messages and amplify the presence of Joint List parties in the Arab communities.”

He said efforts to bring out the vote would focus on people between 18 and 24.

Workers at nongovernmental organizations leading the campaign take pride in the original establishment of Joint List, but say this isn’t enough.

“That was in 2015, and you can’t say that there are new faces that can generate visual change in the campaign,” said one campaign worker from an NGO.

“We need to come up with something new, something that will give people an incentive to go out and vote. Sadly, the atmosphere in general and Arab society in particular isn’t really conducive to this.”

Joint List campaign managers reject the view of the people on the ground.

“The Joint List campaign has been run as planned since the day it was launched, and is achieving its targets both in terms of raising turnout and the share of the vote among Arab voters,” said Aad Kiyal, who has charted the campaign strategy.

He said the message had thus far focused on reasons to vote for the alliance, among them reducing the power of Israel’s right wing and increasing the Arab community’s influence overall.

The campaign’s finance chief, Mansour Dahamshe, pledged that the campaign would shift into high gear this weekend.

“The whole system was in a state of hibernation in Arab society, so the effort will become more focused and grow in the coming days until the election, and I’m sure we’ll do well,” he said.

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