Opinion |

Israeli Non-racists, First We Take Haifa!

Netanyahu is upset because, according to an agreement in Haifa, the new Jewish mayor must condemn all expressions of racism, even if it comes from the Knesset or the prime minister’s residence

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
Haifa city council member Raja Zaatry from Hadash, December 8, 2018.
Haifa city council member Raja Zaatry from Hadash, December 8, 2018.Credit: Rami Shllush
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

Raja Zaatry, the newly appointed Haifa deputy mayor, is a dangerous man. So dangerous that Interior Minister Arye Dery seeks a way to legally block his appointment. Even the prime minister took the trouble to call Mayor Einat Kalisch-Rotem and ask that she not appoint him, and now, as is his wont, he’ll try to cook up a law to this end. Culture Minister Miri Regev was quick to get in on the act too, of course.

Zaatry is a bad Arab. Why can’t he be nice like Adham Jamal, the deputy mayor of Acre, who backed Mayor Shimon Lankri’s call for Einat Weizman’s play “Prisoners of the Occupation” to be banned from last year’s Acre festival? Why can’t he be nice like Faraj Ibn Faraj, the deputy mayor of Lod, who condemned the fireworks displays on Memorial Day this year, or like Shukri Awawdeh, the deputy mayor of Upper Nazareth, who though a communist has declared he’s here to serve everyone?

>>Raja Zaatry has a right to be deputy mayor of Haifa | Editorial

Awawdeh, by the way, is a family doctor at one of Israel’s health maintenance organizations, one of those many Arab doctors in the country’s hospitals who have about half of Israel’s Jews concerned, according to a poll by the Guttman Institute, as reported on the television program London & Kirschenbaum.

Not that it’s surprising, but still it’s curious that the phones in the offices of Benjamin Netanyahu and Regev were apparently disconnected when Afula Mayor Avi Elkabetz introduced a racist loyalty oath for the new city council members, or when former Upper Nazareth Mayor Shimon Gapso, who was convicted of bribery, capped off his election campaign with the slogan “Upper Nazareth for Jews only.”

None of our political leaders asked the interior minister to fire these folks for racist incitement or harming the “delicate fabric” of Jewish-Arab coexistence. Zaatry genuinely supports this delicate fabric, no quotation marks needed.

The agreement that he and his party signed with the mayor doesn’t include any statements of support for Hamas or Hezbollah, but it does state that “both sides are committed to rebuffing all racist discourse and denouncing anyone who supports racist action against any group of residents, regardless of ethnicity, religion, race or gender, including against Arab residents.” It adds that the mayor “views the Arab residents as citizens with equal rights who make a special contribution to the city and its human capital, along with all Haifa residents from all parts of the population.”

Herein lies the problem for the government’s proponents of racism. According to the agreement, the Jewish mayor must condemn all expressions of racism, even if comes from the Knesset or the prime minister’s residence. She’ll have to denounce her colleagues from Afula, Lod and Acre if they make statements against “the Arab race.”

Kalisch-Rotem will be the armor that defends against the white-robed, masked and pointy-hooded torchbearers. To them, an insidious agreement has been signed by a fine daughter of Israel – Zaatry isn’t the real threat, but rather mayors like Kalisch-Rotem who open the city gates to the wreckers.

In the view of the high priests of the nation-state, coexistence on the city level not only goes against the spirit of the times, it’s an attempt to subvert the country’s Jewish identity and grant a loyalty badge to citizens whom the state seeks to portray as traitors. These priests don’t recognize the concept of a “mixed city.” To them, Haifa, Acre, Upper Nazareth, Carmiel, Ramle and Lod are Jewish cities where, alas, Arabs live too.

This situation goes against the nation-state law, which states that the state “views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.” This section doesn’t refer solely to new communities to be built. It refers to existing ones as well. Yes, to Haifa too. And this hole in the dam must be plugged.

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