Opinion |

An Arab-Jewish Ticket of Hope

The rock of our existence is Jewish-Arab cooperation that will save us from the jaws of the fascists

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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The joint Memorial Day ceremony for Israelis and Palestinians in 2012.
The joint Memorial Day ceremony for Israelis and Palestinians in 2012.Credit: Alon Ron
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

Jewish-Arab cooperation is a sin that must be uprooted, even if some of those who are uprooted are members of bereaved Jewish families who lost their children on the altar of what is most sacred to the violent uprooters: the occupation. The fascists offer two alternatives: Either you support Israel’s retention of the entire Land of Israel, or you support the traitors.

This poisonous tree flourishes in the swamp of the occupation — which, after 50 years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies aren’t even willing to pay lip service to seek to end. Occupation forever, hatred forever, brutality forever is their message. Netanyahu says so without any trace of embarrassment.

On the other side, aside from the Arab parties’ Joint List and Meretz, there’s nobody to pick up the gauntlet of extricating ourselves from the quagmire of occupation. The other two opposition parties, Yesh Atid and Zionist Union, have lost their morality. There are moments in which all opportunistic calculations collapse in the face of the evil that cries out.

If those two parties didn’t dare utter a single word of condemnation of the shameful attack on a meeting of bereaved Jewish and Arab families, it’s hard to believe morality will guide them in the future, either. Their shame will remain for all eternity when they are asked where they were when the fascists attacked the bereaved families of both peoples. No excuse can wipe away this disgrace.

Therefore, if Netanyahu had a rock of our existence that led to the deaths of 100 Palestinians and 17 Israelis in 1996, we, those who choose life among both peoples, have the rock of peace and the sanctity of life. The rock of our existence is Jewish-Arab cooperation that will save us, both Arabs and Jews, from the jaws of Itamar Ben-Gvir, his friends and his spiritual fathers.

About a month ago, Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh called for establishing a “democratic camp.” This is a good idea, but it isn’t enough. Anyone who wants to fight the extreme right must present a persuasive alternative that expresses the power of shared citizenship of Arabs and Jews.

The only solution is to set up a Knesset ticket that can draft a joint platform for both peoples. The idea is a kind of Joint List squared, whose members will include all members of the Joint List and Meretz, plus future deserters from Yesh Atid, Zionist Union and Kulanu, those whose consciences won’t allow them to remain in those parties.

To doubters, both Arab and Jewish, who argue that the Joint List unites different political currents within Arab society, we’ll reply that this list is a credit to the Arab community, which knew how to unite on the basis of a common denominator that meshes with the desire of a majority of Israelis to end the occupation.

Throughout the world, oppressed minorities are by and large progressive forces. This is a law of nature: When members of a minority, with all its different currents and subgroups, are targets of government harassment, it’s only natural for them to unite. And they constitute a support group for democratic forces among the majority, just as these democratic forces are their support.

And this is precisely what you have in the Joint List: In every parliamentary battle, it is on the democratic side. This isn’t because Arabs have been graced with especially well-developed democratic sensibilities, but because this is the nature of an oppressed minority.

On the other side, many Arabs would oppose such a union in light of the difficult history of Zionism’s relations with the Arab Palestinian people. To them, we reply that the time has come to give priority to the contents rather than the label. If a Jew fights against the occupation and for equality and democracy, then even if he defines himself as a Zionist, he’s an ally. As the old saying goes, “Don’t judge the book by its cover.”

In 1947, even the progressives among both peoples were divided along national lines. Today, 70 years later, can we offer a new model that will extricate both peoples from the occupation? If bereaved families from both nations could unite in their pain, perhaps the time has come for all good people from both nations to unite and offer a prospect of life for all of us.

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