A Single Knesset Slate for Israel’s Most Threatened Population

If these were ordinary times, the ideological differences among Israel's Arab parties would have constituted a good reason to run separately. But these aren't ordinary times.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Avraham Burg, pictured in 2013.
Avraham Burg, pictured in 2013. Credit: Gil Eliyahu
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

On the fringe of this week’s discussion about putting together a united list of Arab parties for the Knesset, we learned the position of two men of the Zionist aristocracy.

Avraham Burg, a new member of Hadash, opposed a united list, saying that he had not left the Jewish national space, which had become nationalist, to join nationalism of a different sort.

Yossi Beilin, one of the architects of the Oslo Accords, which created the Authority of Palestinian Bantustans, responded to Burg’s preachiness in his typical patronizing style.

He gave marks to Hadash (“a legitimate party with democratic elements” but a Stalinist past) and lamented Burg’s renunciation of what he once considered the most important thing: “the right of the Jews to live here and to bring in any Jew who wishes to live here, and grant him citizenship.”

Three axioms

For the past 67 years, Zionist vision and praxis have been expressed by three axioms:

1) Every Jew has automatic rights in our country that are denied to any Palestinian whose parents and great-grandparents, as well as himself, were born here: the right to live where he chooses, earn a livelihood and buy property; marry, visit, travel freely, receive financial benefits, possess land, receive water, electricity and other services, and so on.

2) The principle of “the rights of the Jews” to come here and live here applies to the entire country, between the river and the sea, as Labor and Likud governments in their various incarnations have made clear since 1967, and,

3) Taking advantage of one’s right to live here comes with unending processes, on both sides of the Green Line, of expulsions of Palestinians from their homes, theft of their land and concentration of them in territorial cells, as the military jargon defines them.

In these spheres, Benjamin Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett are pupils of Mapai.

Simply put, the Zionist praxis gives every Jew the right to improve his situation in the country and reserves the right to degrade the situation of every Palestinian — be he a citizen of Israel, a resident of the country or a subject of the Bantustans Authority.

That is enough to make the Jewish leftists and anti-racist liberals, who fear for the future of both peoples, vote for one of the parties that represent the country’s most oppressed population.

An opportunity to be seized

The vote is not the only answer to the expulsion and dispossession reflex of the Zionist enterprise, but it is an opportunity that should be seized.

The right to degrade and undermine the Palestinians’ status at every moment has recently been invoked in the initiative of Yesh Atid and Yisrael Beiteinu to raise the electoral threshold. These parties are natural partners in a coalition led by Likud or Labor.

Even without other measures intended to push Israel’s Palestinian citizens further to the margins, this law is reason enough to create a single Arab list and for anti-racist people to vote for it.

Show a little modesty, Mr. Burg: It is not “nationalism,” if only because the nationalism of the oppressive ruler and the need and the right of the oppressed to defend themselves do not overlap.

And why doubt from the start the power of the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash) with the Communist Party to influence the character of the united list? After all, Arab-Jewish partnership is one of the Front’s Ten Commandments.

Some people are daunted by the ideological differences among the Arab parties. If these were ordinary times, of the moderate right of 1990s-era Labor and a reasonable electoral threshold, the differences in outlook would have continued to be a good reason to run separately.

But we are no longer living in ordinary times of restrained Zionist discrimination. Instead, we are living in a time when it has become wildly extreme and indulges in dreams of finishing what was left unfinished in 1948.

This is a state of emergency that requires new alignments.

A single list of Israel’s most threatened population, which is in constant danger of expulsion and delegitimization, could be a natural home for leftists from every nation and ethnic group.

Its members have the power to turn it into a school for anti-racist defiance during the difficult times that the “Jewish nationalist space” has in store for us.

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