In the State of Israel's Waning Democracy, Arabs Are Only the First Target

Arab MKs are easy prey, but they are only a means to redefining the pact between the state and its citizens on the basis of loyalty to the state's purported representatives, the far right.

Avirama Golan
Avirama Golan
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Israeli Arab MK Hanin Zoabi (left) and Likud MK Miri Regev (right).
Avirama Golan
Avirama Golan

In the past few days it has seemed as if a competition were declared between the new Knesset back-benchers and the government over who would hit the Arabs harder – Israeli Arabs, naturally.

Although all the brakes in the brittle relations between right-wing MKs and their Arab colleagues have been released, its advisable not to suffice with being shocked by their embarrassing utterances. Its better to figure out the sociopolitical significance of these texts. Thus, the logic leading to the anti-democratic legislation these impassioned MKs and their associates are initiating, as well as the deeper motivations for the unrestricted wave of racism enveloping the Knesset, will emerge.

Examining the litany of insults we have heard lately reveals several guiding principles: first and foremost the separation between we, that is to say representatives of the Jewish right, and you, that is to say, Arab representatives. However, this we in practice defines right-wing extremist MKs as the exclusive representatives of the states Jewish citizens, excluding all who did not vote for them.

Another recurring epithet is automatically associating Arab MKs with support for terror and opposition to the state. No one has argued with the right on their long-standing premise, which holds that every Arab is an anti-Semite. And what about someone who agreed, lets say, with Joint Arab List leader Ayman Odeh on some issue? He must support terror, clearly enough.

Epithets by the right are consciously based on linguistic, passion-stirring obfuscation, dividing reality into absolute good (the only democracy in the Middle East, the most moral army in the world) and abject evil (supporters of terror, anti-Semites and anti-Zionists). It is a lowbrow, propagandistic style that wouldnt embarrass any tyrannical regime in that same Middle East those impassioned MKs scorn.

But another, much more problematic principle is seeping in between the lines. Go back to Gaza, you traitor (Miri Regev to Haneen Zoabi in Arabic), Return your ID card (Oren Hazan to Esawi Freige, also in Arabic), We doing you a favor by letting you live here (Yaron Mazuz to Aida Touma-Suliman) – all these and similar outbursts bear witness, more than anything, that Judea and Samaria really are here.

Whats happening now in the Knesset is not random racism. Its a heavy step on the long road that the eternal people is not afraid of. The right, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu (who signaled the trend with his Election Day speech about Arabs heading to the polls in droves), in practice is turning Israel proper into surplus territory for the Land of Judea.

Out of a fragile democracy, the State of Israel is being redesigned as an area with blurred borders, run by a centralized and belligerent regime through brute police force, where the Jews living in it enjoy the privilege of their status as citizens.

And herein lies the catch. In the next stage this privilege will be conditioned on supporting the regime, and naïve and well-meaning people will suddenly find themselves in the leprous camp, which can be blamed for anything without proof.

Arab MKs are easy prey because most of the public apathetically accepts the smear campaign against them. However, they are only a means to redefining the pact between the state and its citizens on the basis of loyalty to the State of Israel, that is to say, the far right that supposedly represents it. And when this process will be completed, not much will remain of democracy. It will just be the state.