Israel's Arabs and Liberals Are No Great Leftists

The 'leftists' only want to find favor in the eyes of the West, while the Arabs are only looking for honorific titles in the Knesset.

Salaman Masalha
Salman Masalha
 Joint List candidates during a news conference in Nazareth, Feb. 7, 2015.
Joint List candidates during a news conference in Nazareth, Feb. 7, 2015.Credit: Reuters
Salaman Masalha
Salman Masalha

Jews and Arabs in Israel live in two different worlds that rarely overlap. There are Arab towns and Jewish towns. There are also “mixed communities” that have both Arab and Jewish neighborhoods. In short, social apartheid.

What is called the left, whether Isaac Herzog, Tzipi Livni or Zahava Gal-On, is taking part in this. The left doesn’t take into account what are called the Arab parties, which, based on Jewish democratic law, will always remain outside the fence of the governing coalition.

And in the Hebrew-language media, every commentator is busy counting the Jewish votes for Knesset seats and envisioning coalitions based purely on the Jewish parties. They will never take into account the “Arab parties.”

Nothing in this election regarding the Arab street interests them. After all, they’re completely ignoring the storm in the Arab community after what the only Jewish MK on the joint “Arab” slate said about the Steimatzky book chain’s carrying of the magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The story goes like this. MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) was interviewed on Army Radio with his “friend” on the Arab slate, MK Masud Ganaim (United Arab List–Ta’al) of the Islamic Movement. Disagreeing with Ganaim, Khenin said he thought Steimatzky should be allowed to sell the magazine.

The Arab street’s response came quickly. The Nazareth municipality stopped worrying about garbage collection and made time to deal with matters of supreme importance. An ad published on the Al-Arab website proclaimed the following:

“When a representative of the public and an MK such as Hadash’s Khenin, who owes his very presence in the Knesset to the Arab vote, declares he supports freedom of expression and permitting the distribution of the French magazine in Israel, he is no different from any right-wing MK whose entire goal is to hurt the feelings of the Arab community in this land, especially the Muslims .... The city of Nazareth demands that MK Dov Khenin apologize publicly and change his position.”

Hadash wriggled around the issue, and Khenin rushed to be interviewed on the Arabic Al-Shams radio station, based in Nazareth. He said he’s against attacking and defaming religion, and the magazine’s cartoons are very serious. In his comments to the old communist Arab community, he apparently changed his position and even came out in defense of the opiate of the masses.

This teaches us that in the election campaign beleaguering us, all the parties, Jewish and Arab, are skirting the main issue. They don’t want to present plans for solving the conflict and launching a serious discussion on the shaky relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel.

The Israeli right, with all its shades and racists, only wants to manage the conflict and continue pilfering real estate. And what is called the left isn’t at all looking for an honest solution to the conflict. It only wants to find favor in the eyes of the West.

On the other side, the “Arabs” who have gathered under a single roof are only looking for honorific titles in the Knesset. If you will it, these are the Arab mukhtars, the local village chiefs of the modern era. This is the entire political Torah in the Jewish state while standing on one leg.

True, the united Arab slate will have the honor of entering the only temple of democracy in the Middle East, but in this dream palace its members will be assigned the rooms near the bathrooms. They’ll never be allowed to lounge in the salon of the decision makers, or sit at the table where the public pie is divvied up.

These people, like the Arab voters, will receive the leftovers: Crumbs from the cakes, deposits from the bottles and a barrage of “Jewish-democratic” talk so they remember that their situation is much better than that of their brothers in the Arab countries. The bottom line: Any thinking person will understand that what has been is what will be, and that there is nothing new under the sun.

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