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Arabs of Israel: Enough Begging

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Leaders of the Joint List at the Knesset, Jerusalem, January 2020.
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Dear Arabs of Israel: The politicians don’t want you. The time has come for you to understand this and draw the obvious conclusion. Your representatives have tried to extend a hand, but it remained outstretched in the air. Some of your leaders tried to say that spit is rain, but spit is spit, and that’s what you’re getting from all shades of the Jewish political spectrum. Israel is united in scorn for its Palestinian citizens.

You’re being spit on by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who doesn’t stop inciting against you, talking about partnership with Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi as if it’s a partnership with the devil. But no less than that, you’re being spit on by Kahol Lavan MK Benny Gantz, who on Tuesday contemptibly and gutlessly rejected the possibility of partnership with you. You’re even being spit on by Labor-Meretz, whose top 10 candidates for Knesset are purely Jewish.

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It’s all the same thick, disgusting, humiliating spit. From the right, of course, you could have expected nothing. Its racism is open. Kahol Lavan is another story; they’re misleading you. After a difficult decision, and in the absence of Balad representatives, after the last elections the heads of the Joint List courageously recommended Gantz as their candidate for prime minister. The Israeli Palestinian party recommended the army chief of staff from the 2014 Gaza war, with all his war crimes, as candidate for prime minister.

It’s impossible to overstate the significance of this step. What was the response? Gantz’s declaration Tuesday that the Joint List could not be part of a government he heads. The racist and corrupt MK Avigdor Lieberman, yes; Joint List chairman MK Ayman Odeh, no. Why? “There are deep differences of opinion between me and the Joint List … difficult and impossible to bridge.” With the God of the ultra-Orthodox and the racism and degeneration of Lieberman, Gantz can create a bridge. Only with Tibi and Odeh he can’t.

What precisely is his differences of opinion with them? That they’re for a two-state solution? Are you against that, Kahol Lavan? Are you for it? Are you for anything except “no” to Netanyahu and “yes” to annexation?

Of all times, now that Palestinian Israelis are showing welcome signs of aspiring to integrate, and the hospitals and pharmacies are full of their doctors, nurses and pharmacists, and Arabic is commonly heard at the Jewish universities and colleges, when there are hardly any Arabs in Israel who don’t speak Hebrew and hardly any who don’t want to live in Israel – now, of all times, comes the stinging slap of their lives, from the Jewish politicians, whose cowardice is a guiding light, the only light.

Now of all times, when relations with Israel’s Arab citizens are finally showing the first signs of equality, Gantz and his partners come along and rudely kick over the bucket. You have no place, they tell the Arabs. And you won’t have one. There is no partnership with you and there won’t be any. Differences of opinion? These are not differences of opinion – does Kahol Lavan even have opinions? – they’re just a combination of the racism of Kahol Lavan’s right flank and the fear of the racism in the party’s central masses.

The handwriting is on the wall for Israel’s Arabs. This must not lead you to boycott the election. No way. That is exactly what Netanyahu and all the Gantzes, Ya’alons and Lapids want. A Jewish Knesset. Don’t play into their hands.

However, you also shouldn’t continue to live with the illusion that with the Jews of Israel you can play nice, be charming and play host at feasts. Just like nonviolent struggle and passivity did not help your brethren in the territories, it won’t help in the Israeli political arena. The conclusion: There’s nothing in any Zionist party for an Arab in Israel. Not as a voter, not as a sympathizer and not as a member. You’ve seen them. But you must go out and vote, absolutely, masses and masses of you.

Only a major and impressive show of force by Israel’s Arabs will persuade Israel’s Jews that they have no choice but to partner with you. Only a show of force in the election will overcome Zionism. Only a show of force will stop racism. The ball is in your court, Arabs of Israel, at the polling stations between Tarshiha and Hura.

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