Opinion |

Meretz Doesn’t Speak for Arabs

חנין מג׳אדלי - צרובה
Hanin Majadli
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A Meretz party billboard in the Arab city of Tira, during the 2021 elections.
A Meretz party billboard in the Arab city of Tira, during the 2021 elections.Credit: Eyal Toueg
חנין מג׳אדלי - צרובה
Hanin Majadli

Since Zehava Galon announced on Facebook this week that she would run for the leadership of the Meretz party, the hope and excitement in the leftist camp has been so fervent that it is reminiscent of the days of “Israel is Waiting for Rabin.” A Knesset without Meretz after all would be a catastrophe for democracy, and saving democracy is important, so Meretz has to be saved.

Well, I can understand why my Ashkenazi brothers and sisters, Jews from the upper and middle classes, from the center of the country and from its privileged kibbutzim vote for Meretz and idolize Galon. All of the aforementioned have an identical set of values that include separation of religion and state, separation of waste, gay rights and conscription to elite army units.

But what do Arabs from Kafr Qasem, Tira or Yarka have to do with these values and this joy? In this context, I think it is preferable to vote for Shas, which will fight to increase child benefits, rather than voting for Meretz. It’s a greater and more important civic duty than preventing Benjamin Netanyahu from returning to power. And despite the heat wave ravaging Europe, it’s even more important than the climate crisis, which Tamar Zandberg ran a whole campaign around, if not her whole career.

Yep, it’s getting hotter in Israel and around the world, but unfortunately we Arabs have more urgent problems. Not to mention that in joining the “change” coalition Meretz gave its vote to apartheid. The party supported the extension of emergency regulations and apartheid over the Palestinians, and then stuttered when it came to the Citizenship Law.

Looking further back, Meretz didn’t oppose Operation Cast Lead, was mealy-mouthed when it came to Protective Edge and backed the government in the Second Lebanon War. In general, Meretz’s modus operandi is aligning with nationalism in times of war and then regretting it a lot later, especially during elections.

Zehava Galon, who announced her intention to run for the leadership of Meretz.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Meretz tries to paint itself as being concerned about minorities and the weak, as a humanistic leftist party, Israel’s social democratic party, a partner and defender of the rights of the Arab community. But its DNA is constructed from statements such as the following: “In the wake of an internal poll, Meretz has decided to reject the idea of becoming a Jewish-Arab list because that would deter potential voters.”

We received a poignant example of this recently, when, as soon as a MK Ghaida Rinawi Zoabi stood up for her position, the party leadership and its electorate showed her straight off who’s the boss and what her place is in the hierarchy.

Meretz courts the Arab vote during elections, up to and including election day, but the day after, it ignores them. Not because it has anything against them; on the contrary, its intentions are good overall. But the fact is that the problems of the average Arab citizen of Israel are very different from the problems of the average Meretz voter.

I wonder about all those Arab citizens who, despite all the disappointments and the blows, stay loyal to Meretz (or Labor, or Yesh Atid, or Kahol Lavan – it’s all the same thing). Are they suffering from Stockholm Syndrome? Or perhaps from adulation of the white man (see Galit Distal Atbaryan)?

Perhaps it’s just the way I feel. I am in the same camp as these beautiful people who, if they created the problem, will surely know how to solve it. Or perhaps these are just good old feelings of inferiority. Something along the lines of, “If it’s white, it must be right.”

In any event, Zehava is back, and therefore we can mark down the day of her return as a new holiday on the left’s calendar.

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