Apparently we’ll have to start getting used to the Knesset minus our representatives from the Joint Arab List. Without Aida and Jamal, without Haneen and Dov, without Ahmad and Ayman. It won’t be easy, because their presence there provided a sliver of hope that sanity was still possible; the sanity of a state that exists for all its citizens, who belong to two national groups.
The so-called Suspension Law, which passed its first Knesset vote on Monday, aims to cause a rift between “good” and “bad” Arabs. Suspending Balad party members from Knesset sessions, and outlawing the Islamic Movement’s northern branch, were added episodes in the series of exclusions, and passed fairly easily. But as list chairman Ayman Odeh pointed out, if the “bad” ones (Balad) are expelled, it will be difficult for him to remain in the Knesset. We, their voters – Arabs and Jews alike – will be deterred from voting for the ones Uri Ariel, Avigdor Lieberman and Ayelet Shaked, in their Judeo-democratatorship generosity, approve as “good.”
The law to expel Arab Knesset members also aims at the left (Jewish and Arab). It seeks to drive a wedge not only between “good” and “bad” Arabs but between the left and the liberals-lite. The law very likely will not target the social feminists of the Labor Party; even without it, they are very gingerly when talking about blood, Gaza Prison and the settlements.
No law would be enacted forbidding “incitement” against CEOs, or against the owners of companies that pay disgraceful wages to female employees. The Jewish discourse allows such subversive statements as long as pay remains low, and the corporate chieftains continue to get extraordinary tax breaks. The members of Meretz can even continue to proudly and freely represent the interests of the LGBT and secular communities in Israel. It isn’t sure, though, that Zouheir Bahloul (Zionist Union) can bite his tongue forever, or that Esawi Freige (Meretz) will concentrate on expanding the Kafr Qasm industrial zone and nothing more in order to be deemed kosher by Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi).
On Monday, Revital Swid (Zionist Union) said, rightly, “Hatred of Arabs is blinding the MKs into passing a law that no attorney general supports.” Indeed, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, formerly the IDF’s chief military advocate, called the law problematic, but also clarified that the problem is not constitutional. The law is legal, just as it is legal to demolish Umm el-Hiran and expel its Bedouin residents again, like it is legal not to supply water and electricity to “unrecognized” Palestinian villages (on both sides of the Green Line), and it is legal to expropriate their land.
Swid also told the chairman of the Constitution, Law and Justice committee, MK Nissan Slomiansky: “The day will come that it [the law] gets used against you. One day there will be a majority here who decides that anybody who does not condemn the hilltop youth and support the kingdom of Israel is subverting the State of Israel as a Jewish, democratic state. What will you do on that day?”
That’s the thing: Once the psychosis of expulsion gains momentum, we have to brace for an even crazier, rightward-leaning, repressive stage. The law to oust Arabs is designed precisely to avert the day in which Jewish Israeli society realizes that its dispossession-settlement legacy is dangerous to Arabs and Jews alike.
The Joint Arab List, despite and because of its tensions within, represents a chance for genuine normalcy in our binational state. Yes, with contradictions, with problems that haven’t been solved yet, with resentments and differences in viewpoints. The fact that Palestinian MKs represent Jewish voters (however few we may be) and that a Jewish MK represents Palestinian voters, too, laid the groundwork for a different future. This future is now looking all the more illusory.