Opinion |

The Hypocrisy of Arab Lawmakers in Israel

Every election, 'Arab cicadas' arise from their slumber to offer reasons to boycott the vote, blaming all but themselves for their ills

Abed L. Azab
Abed L. Azab
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Hadash chairman Ayman Odeh and Ta'al chairman Ahmad Tibi present their slate, February 21, 2019.
Hadash chairman Ayman Odeh and Ta'al chairman Ahmad Tibi present their slate, February 21, 2019.Credit: Emil Salman
Abed L. Azab
Abed L. Azab

I made my first trip to the United States in 1987. After landing in Washington, I asked to be taken right to McDonald’s, which hadn’t yet opened in Israel. Along the way, I noticed hundreds of thousands of insects the size of beetles that seemed to be everywhere. When I go on long trips that aren’t vacations, I generally plan by boning up on the climate and the flora and fauna of my destination — including the people who live there and their customs. But in my preparations for this visit, I hadn't encountered any mention of those insects.

People around me, who were seemingly relaxed, explained that they were cicadas, which have an interesting life cycle. They can survive for years underground as nymphs and then emerge and swarm around in their millions, as I was seeing in the U.S. capital.

There also appear to be human nymphs, not the beautiful ones of Greek mythology though. During every Knesset election “season,” these nymphs, who are in hibernation between elections, suddenly make their appearance. In Israel, they are more common in Arab society than among Israeli Jews. Like the nymphs in Washington, they sing a painfully monotonous tune — the mantra that the Knesset election has to be boycotted.

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The reasons remain the same: What have the Arab lawmakers accomplished? What have they advanced? And the real zinger: Arab participation in the political parliamentary game in Israel is an admission that Israel is a democracy, and that provides the best possible boost for Zionist propaganda around the world.

Those American cicadas do only aesthetic damage. They leave behind a lot of filth that has to be swept away, but their appearance helps their predators, particularly birds and various invertebrates. Our cicadas not only pollute the physical and psychological environment. They also tear at Israel’s fragile and delicate fabric of life.

Let’s take this one step at a time, slowly and carefully. What have Arab Knesset members accomplished? Very little. What have they advanced? Mainly themselves.

Unfortunately in this past Knesset term, they have been stricken with that malady that makes them want to hold onto power, a disease that may be universal but seems to be particularly endemic among Arabs.

The evidence includes Libya’s Muammar Gadhafi, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak. I don’t know if it’s the genes, the mentality or a combination of factors, but one thing is certain. The disgust over the mainly Arab Joint List Knesset slate's inability to come to agreement on a mid-term rotation of candidates leaves little room for speculation. They have been smitten with the disease.

The recent Arab party alliances in advance of the April 9 election further buttress this impression. Two days before the signing of the agreement between Hadash and Ahmad Tibi’s Ta’al party, mutual recriminations reached their peak, but once the deal was signed, the love between them blossomed. One gets the impression that Tibi will still be in the Knesset in 2089 because the platform of any party or alliance that he creates has the words Ahmad Tibi written all over it.

Arab Knesset members, as well as the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, have violated their mission and are misleading those who elected them. When the crisis erupted over Palestinian prisoners who staged a hunger strike in Israeli prisons, Arab leaders in Israel organized huge protests, and justifiably so. But every time violence in Arab society in Israel reaches new heights, they blame everyone but the people who are really responsible. We, members of Arab society, are.

And even worse, they don’t take any serious steps to fight this blight. They blame everything that moves for our disease but don’t do anything serious to treat it other than taking home hefty salaries and maintaining offices and staff that are mainly there to arrange media interviews.

And now for the most powerful complaint of all: Those who participate in the elections lend legitimacy to the Zionist entity. Really? Then why only boycott the elections? What about the entity’s other functions?

Why do you agree to serve as supervisors in the Education Ministry or accept the existence of supervision over the teaching of Arabic, our language, without really having any say in the curriculums? Why do you agree to the business collaboration, insufficient as it is, that exists between Arabs and Jews, a large portion of whom are ardent Zionists? And why do you collaborate with Zionist researchers? In sum, are you agreeing to cooperate in every respect but still refuse to cooperate with the Israeli political system?

And the most serious point: Who gave you the right to emigrate, to run away from our daily confrontation with discrimination, racism, the nation-state law and its repercussions — and then criticize what we do?

As long as you are far from the homeland that you ran away from to live a more comfortable life, you don’t have the right to tell those of us who live here what to do. We are the heroes and you are wimps. There’s a saying in Arabic that those who live in Mecca are most familiar with it. We live on this land, not you. Don’t preach morality to us as long as you are there and we are here.

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