Israeli Arabs, Don't Give the Jewish State Your Vote

The Arab MKs merely serve as a fig leaf that covers Israel's systematic racism. Arab citizens, boycott the elections.

Salaman Masalha
Salman Masalha
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The Knesset, October 27, 2014.
The Knesset, October 27, 2014.Credit: Emil Salman
Salaman Masalha
Salman Masalha

Once again, we find ourselves at the height of election fever in the Jewish “nation-state” — in other words, in the state where the Jew is “above everyone.” But I have bad news for our new political couple, Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni: As far as I’m concerned, as long as their camp, which aspires to the crown, doesn’t change its political operating system, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the right can sleep quietly.

Once in a great while, I have the honor of receiving phone calls from politicians following a column I’ve published here. One such conversation took place before the last election, after I urged Arab citizens of Israel to boycott the vote. The call didn’t come from an Arab politician, but from a Jewish one.

It was Livni, head of the Hatnuah party, who called back then. She said she frequently agrees with what I write, but “not this time. It’s very important to come to the polling station and vote, to bring about the election of a different government and a different prime minister.” The end of this story is well-known: She wound up as a member of the cabinet, in Netanyahu’s warm embrace, until he threw her out and ran to inform Israeli society of their spat at a press conference.

Therefore, what I said to Livni then is doubly true today: As long as the Israeli government is built on Jewish ethnic purity, the Knesset has nothing to offer Israel’s Arab citizens.

The Arab MKs merely serve as a fig leaf that covers the nakedness of Israeli apartheid. Consequently, Arab citizens should boycott the election.

It’s true that populist Arab politicians raised an outcry after the electoral threshold was raised, claiming that the change was meant to block them from entering the Knesset. But that’s an idiotic claim, because Arab MKs have in any case always been blocked within the Knesset. Nobody counts them; they have never been part of any ruling coalition; they have never been members of the cabinet or taken part in running the country.

The leaders of the Zionist state would have to be complete idiots to give up the valuable service the Arab MKs provide them at such a cheap price. Arab participation in the elections serves Israel as a placebo — it soothes the Arab public, which is being forced into a corner — while also serving Israel’s need to present itself overseas as a democratic country that grants its Arab citizens seats in parliament and the possibility of making their voices heard.

But inside the Knesset, the Arab MKs are talking to the walls. A real outcry by Israel’s Arab citizens could more effectively be raised outside those walls. We need to apply to the United Nations and to international organizations to request protection against the abuse of Israel’s Arab residents by the ethnocentric government. Surely the impact of such an outcry in the international arena would be greater than having Arabs in the Knesset.

Therefore, this should be said clearly: As long as the leaders of the majority’s “nation” don’t change their mind-set, and as long as 20 percent of the country’s citizens are ostracized from the corridors of power due to their ethnicity, the Knesset has nothing to offer Israel’s Arab citizens.

Arab citizens will in any case continue to receive a few crumbs from the government even without Arabs in the Knesset, because that’s in the government’s interest.

If the Arabs nevertheless insist on participating in this rigged game, then the time has come for their elected representatives to put all those claimants for the crown in their places. After all, Herzog was recently heard toying with the possibility of forming a government with support from the Arab parties — which, naturally, would remain outside it.

We therefore need to tell the newlyweds that such games are over. Isaac and Tzipi must be told in no uncertain terms: There will be no such thing as a “blocking majority,” in which the Arab parties help you keep Netanyahu out of power. Those who have been banking on such a possibility should stop considering it. Those who can’t include an Arab party, or an Arab-Jewish party, in their coalition math are thereby declaring that there’s no difference between them and the rest of the racists in the center and the right.

In short: I have nothing to offer on Election Day.

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