The Right's New Tactic for Israeli Arabs - Unify and Conquer

Many think the right wing inadvertently did the country's Arabs a favor by raising the electoral threshold and forcing the Arab parties to unite. They should think again.

Saja Abu Fanni
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Israeli Arab MKs Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al ), Hanna Swaid (Hadash) and Jamal Zahalka (Balad), July 20, 2011.
Israeli Arab MKs Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al ), Hanna Swaid (Hadash) and Jamal Zahalka (Balad), July 20, 2011.Credit: Emil Salman
Saja Abu Fanni

An entertaining spectacle has sprung up in these parts. The right wing is changing its ways entirely and out of the goodness of its heart is seeking to unify the country’s Arabs as a result of the new, higher vote threshold that parties need to pass to enter the Knesset. How nice it is to see the Arabs, whose internal disputes have been their hallmark, embracing in the streets and going around together dressed the same. It recalls comments by Jawar, a comic actor in Syria, who spoke of one people, one malady and one medical prescription.

Therefore, while the at times ugly battles being waged by our Jewish brethren over uniting and dividing parties are in full swing, a spirit of pleasant unity has come over the Arabs, soothing the ego and engendering good will among them. Our brothers on the right have decided to impose order. Why should the Arabs wrack their brains over electoral slates, party platforms, election slogans and candidates? The time has come to clear away the mess and have one Arab ticket for all of them.

Furthermore, why should the Arabs get caught up with high-minded rhetoric appropriate for complicated Western societies? What do the Arabs have to do with principles such as pluralism, ideology, individualism and respect for human dignity? Instead why not just have the clan or party heads put together an electoral slate. They’ll decide, and that’s it. The top slot will go to an Ahmed. In second place of course will be an Ahmed, and in tenth place another Ahmed, and this time let it be a nice Ahmed, for the photographs. True, you think that all of you are different from one another, but for people on the right, all of you Arabs are Zoabis.

Meanwhile a friend who understands things tells me how bizarre the situation is with these right-wingers. They’re constantly trying to divide us based on our communities, clans, villages, urban connections, or as Bedouin – and now all of a sudden, they’re projecting a message of unity. So I told my friend, it looks like the right wing has recognized its transgression and is now working to atone for its sins. But my friend, who has a habit of getting himself mixed up in things, has come to the conclusion that unity will actually weaken the Arabs. If we rummage around behind the façade of this unity, we will find ticking bombs. Nothing less.

And here are the results of his rummaging around: Internal antagonism is just as strong as unity slogans. So we will have a single slate with communists, religious candidates and feminists. But when it comes down to it, how will those for whom all the Jews are Lapids get together with those who see both Jews and Arabs as having been created in the same image? Such a mixed multitude on one slate could never have been foreseen anywhere. And whom do we have to thank for this other than our savior, the new electoral threshold.

My friend says internal antagonisms will put an end to political activism and also depress voter turnout. In the process, the election will bring about smaller Arab Knesset representation. In addition, internal battles within the parties, between the older and newer generations, will be put off into the indefinite future. In the process, the transition to the next generation will stall, making old age the hallmark of Arab political movements in this country.

In actuality, all of these party slates, Hadash, Balad and United Arab List-Ta’al, attract the Arab vote to a greater extent than any comparable party on the Jewish street. Likud, the strongest party among Jewish voters, has a weaker showing even than Balad, the smallest party among the Arab public. In the 2013 Knesset elections, Balad got 22 percent of the Arab vote, while Likud received less than 20 percent of the Jewish vote. Therefore, if there is justice, the sword of the minimum electoral threshold should actually threaten Likud.

A single Arab slate is a recipe for stagnation. Moreover, it will not bring about the result that many expect. If there is no other alternative, better for there to be at least two electoral slates, and then at least there will be a choice between two paths. The High Court of Justice will soon hear a petition challenging the higher electoral threshold. If the petition is granted, the election campaign on the street will again liven up. After all, since the current Knesset election campaign began, even cursing has not been heard. It’s been truly boring.

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