Israel Election Results: Arabs Will Not Bend Their Principles to Fit a Twisted 'Reality'

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Campaign posters for the Joint List rejecting Netanyahu's false promises to their community in the March 2021 election
Campaign posters for the Joint List rejecting Netanyahu's false promises to their community in the March 2021 electionCredit: Ilan Assayag

On Haaretz’s front page on March 30 – as a news analysis, not an opinion piece – Jack Khoury analyzed the election results among Israeli Arabs. At the end of his analysis in Hebrew, Khoury arrived at the following insight: “There’s the ideal and there’s the reality, and for now, the Arabs have chosen the reality.”

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a slogan so at odds with human dignity. After all, MKs Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir are also “the reality.” Should we hook up with them this time, as per the old defeatist Arab adage “kiss the hand you cannot break”?

And if so, why shouldn’t this golden rule also guide our brothers and sisters demonstrating outside the prime minister’s residence, who, for almost a whole year, have taken the trouble to come from all over the country to topple Benjamin Netanyahu? And in general, how is it possible to effect change if you choose “the reality”? After all, it’s the nature of reality to remain as it is, whereas the human impulse is to strive for the ideal.

Sorry, but this isn’t the way of the Arab community, which marked the 45th anniversary of Land Day on Monday. On that day in 1976, six of our best sons were shot and killed by the security forces when they went out to protect their land. But they thereby broke the siege the government had been imposing on them for many years. By fighting rather than acquiescing to “the reality,” they prevented the expropriation of tens of thousands of dunams.

This “reality” that the Arabs ostensibly chose also includes incitement by the United Arab List and its supporters against the rival Joint List. They demonized Joint List MKs Aida Touma-Sliman and Ayman Odeh because they supported a law banning conversion therapy – which, to be clear, is a law to ban the torture of members of the LGBTQ community. And they wrapped it all up in religious packaging.

Yet despite this unbridled incitement, the majority didn’t buy the UAL’s propaganda. Take a look at most Arab towns, Khoury, and you’ll see that the Joint List won a clear majority.

The UAL is going back to the days of the Arab satellite parties that supported David Ben-Gurion and his Mapai party. On the other hand, it’s the way of governments to sow divisions among the oppressed: This one is good, so it will get a carrot; that one is bad, so it will get the stick.

In the meantime, even the “good one” is getting the stick. Our supervisor of Jewish racial purity, Smotrich, and his Kahanist friend Ben-Gvir have brutally rejected UAL chairman Mansour Abbas. As the Arabs say, “We agreed to the bitter, but the bitter rejected us.”

Khoury finishes by venting his anger at what is called “the left.” This is understandable, even though the left is virtually nonexistent, given that parts of it behaved shamefully after the last election, before Netanyahu formed a government with Kahol Lavan chairman Benny Gantz.

Nevertheless, Netanyahu’s opponents together with the Joint List almost thwarted passage of the nation-state law, of which Netanyahu was the spiritual and biological father. That alone is grounds for rejecting this, the “ultimate reality” in the form of Netanyahu, who will stand trial on Monday on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Today, we’re telling our children that their grandfathers and grandmothers, even when they were under military government, raised the banner of the battle for the refugees’ return. I, for instance, tell my children that when I was still in my mother’s womb, my late Uncle Sa’id was fleeing from the police because he and his friends had prevented a grand party that was supposed to take place in Nazareth to mark the tenth anniversary of the state’s establishment.

Purely “by chance,” that day was also when thousands of people were deported over the border. And the next day, more than 500 demonstrators were arrested in Nazareth, Umm al-Fahm and many other places for protesting against the military government.

When the day comes in another 20 or 30 years, what will we tell our children? Will we tell them that in 2021, we took a sharp turn, sought out “the reality” and chose it? The beating heart inside us says “no.”

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