Controversial Israeli Arab Lawmakers Know Exactly What They Are Doing

Balad MKs have never disguised their aspiration to change Israel's nature as the nation-state of the Jewish people. What's becoming clear is the strategy they have chosen for this purpose.

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MKs Basel Ghattas, Haneen Zoabi and Jamal Zakalka from the Joint Arab List's Balad faction.
MKs Basel Ghattas, Haneen Zoabi and Jamal Zakalka from the Joint Arab List's Balad faction.Credit: Noam Moskowitz

Balad MKs can chalk up another accomplishment: The Knesset has just passed the first reading of the “MK suspension” bill. If condolence visits to families of terrorists, which spawned the bill, weren’t enough, the MKs' defense of Hezbollah apparently gave the bill the required impetus.

An editorial in Haaretz described their support of Hezbollah as “folly.” However, these MKs should be given more credit, since their moves show consistency. Given that they’re very familiar with the internal scene in Israel, the result suits their intentions more than it’s convenient for us to admit.

The Balad MKs have never disguised their aspiration to change the nature of this country as the nation-state of the Jewish people. What is becoming clear is the strategy they have chosen for this purpose: Systematic incitement of the minority against the majority and vice versa. One gets the impression they believe that a deteriorating confrontation between the two sides will eventually lead to a collapse of the framework we call “a Jewish and democratic state.”

We tend to interpret their constant provocations as a struggle against the Jewish character of this state, in the name of democracy. However, the strategy of fomenting conflict requires attacking democracy as well. This is how it works: First of all, one creates a provocation that targets the majority’s most sensitive points, following which, the right responds with legislative initiatives that violate democracy, at least symbolically. At the end of this chain of events the left wakes up in order to defend democracy by attacking the Jewish character of the state.

It seems that no one knows better than the MKs of Balad how to activate the right against the country’s “democratic nature” and the left against its “Jewish nature.” Both sides, in a Pavlovian reflex, play the part expected of them. One delivers laws concerning the nation-state, the flag, suspension, etc., while the other expands the term fascism to include the expression of any national Jewish sentiment.

The right will eat away at democracy and the left will detract from the national characteristics of the state.

Fortunately for Israel, most of the public is much more moderate. The right’s empty bills have not brought about a collapse of democracy and the extreme left’s attacks on the national characteristics of the state have not led people to cast them off. Despite exhibitions of fury that often become ugly, most of the public is willing to grind its teeth and absorb these constant provocations, and that’s for the better.

A Knesset member like Haneen Zoabi is a walking refutation of the arguments she spouts and a testimony to the robustness of Israeli democracy. Very few democracies would allow their parliament members to retain their seats after active demonstrations of sympathy with enemies and terrorists. Furthermore, if Israel were as fascist as Zoabi claims it is, she would have been long gone and unable to tell us about it.

The lofty proclamations made by Balad in support of democracy don’t convince many people either. It’s hard to argue that you support both democracy and Hezbollah. According to Balad, Israel should be a democracy without a national base, but Palestine must have one; and they forgive it (as they forgave Syria) for lacking a democracy. The democratic argument is merely a battering ram that will pave the way for nationalism, something Balad is trying to disguise.

However, what is most discouraging about the irresponsible conduct of these MKs is not the danger it poses to Israel’s constitutional makeup. So far, it’s holding up just fine. More risible is the ease with which they are willing to sacrifice the welfare of the Arab minority on the altar of their favorite apocalypse. It is this minority which has to bear the brunt of the suffering engendered by their incitement, fomented so assiduously by some of this minority’s parliamentary representatives.

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