Opinion |

The Enemy Is on Balfour Street, Not in Umm al-Fahm

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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Israelis vote in the Bedouin town of Rahat near the southern Israeli city of Beersheba on March 2, 2020.
Israelis vote in the Bedouin town of Rahat near the southern Israeli city of Beersheba on March 2, 2020.Credit: AFP
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

I’m not the one disseminating a doomsday message for Israeli democracy. That message is coming from a former Israeli prime minister named Ehud Barak. Barak is describing a horrific but alarmingly realistic scenario regarding what is likely to happen if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu succeeds in Monday's election to win 61 seats for the right-wing-ultra-Orthodox bloc. The message is also coming from another former army chief of staff named Benny Gantz. Gantz, head of the Kahol Lavan party, is warning against a mafia – one of the nicknames for the gang in the prime minister's residence on Jeruslem's Balfour Street – that is aiming to tilt the vote in favor of the right-wing bloc by means of fake news, mudslinging and incitement. And on the way it will crush what remains of democracy in Israel.

Who knows, perhaps at this very moment some troll in cyberspace is making a mockery of the election, and confusing people by explaining that the letters denoting the Likud party which are printed on the ballot slips – Mahal (mem-het-lamed) – are actually the letters for the Joint List or Kahol Lavan. After all, during the election campaign Netanyahu appeared every day in a different guise. A week ago he assumed the guise of a God-fearing man, encouraging Muslims to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca, although a short time beforehand he had donned a mantle of incitement, and warned in a Facebook post that the Arabs intend to “destroy all of us – women, children and men.”

Bibi went gunning for his only real rivalCredit: Haaretz Weekly Ep. 66

Meanwhile, on the other hand, we can also come to members of Kahol Lavan with a sack full of proven claims about their disgraceful participation in the festival of incitement and mudslinging against Israel's Arab community. Some of their accusations have even surpassed the originals, products of the evil Netanyahu – and only now, when the fires of incitement that they used against the Arabs are reaching their own homes as well, are they beginning to sweat and shout "Oy gevalt!" Never mind, better late than never.

Some will say that Arabs and Jewish democrats in this country have nothing to do with the intense power struggle taking place on the top floor, and that politically there is no difference between Likud and Kahol Lavan, and therefore they should be left to stew in their own juices. That’s a dangerous attitude, because if we don’t take action at some point against the most dangerous elements, those sitting on the bottom floor – including the Arabs and other deprived communities – will be the first victims of the extremist takeover.

Today this whole situation is embodied in the so-called Balfour gang and its allies, among them far-right extremist Itamar Ben-Gvir who, during the period when Ayelet Shaked was justice minister, apparently advised her on judicial appointments.

The luxury of sitting on the sidelines has never been Arab society’s cup of tea. These citizens have always managed to navigate the maze of the political jungle, thereby improving their living conditions and ensuring that they remained in their homeland. The good news is that on this day, and despite the dark clouds of lies and incitement, we sense that many people, even those on the top floor, already realize that the winds of danger are actually blowing from Balfour Street – not from Umm al-Fahm, which is being threatened with revocation of its residents’ citizenship.

And so, without even noticing, we are witnessing a rare sight: Members of the “first Israel,” as people like to call it, are joining hands with the “third Israel” – i.e., Israeli Arab citizens – in order to generate a profound change in the State of Israel. This is the epitome of the End of Days! Against the enemy from Balfour and for the sake of a country that embraces its children, Tel Aviv will go with Umm al-Fahm, Netanya with Nazareth, Haifa with Rahat and Sakhnin with Ra’anana. Truly, the path of human goodness is a twisted one.

There is now a desire here to bring about a change that will benefit all of us, even the “second Israel” – those people whom Netanyahu’s right-hand man, Natan Eshel, claims are flourishing in the excrement of hatred. They’ll take another toke of hatred, and will get a racist high that is anti-Arab and anti anything that smells of democracy.

Really, what sickly souls are growing in the laboratory of Balfour, who see people as guinea pigs: One more dose of hatred and the Mizrahim (Jews of Middle Eastern and North African origin) will raid the bastions of the rule of law. Victory is already in our pockets.

Every Arab and Jewish democrat has an obligation to go out and vote, and to persuade others to vote, so that this election won’t be the last democratic one.

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