Arabs, Go Vote and Create an Alternative to the Government That Excludes You

Israeli Arabs, who suffer from institutionalized exclusion, must understand that the most effective way to combat discrimination is by voting for parties that represent them.

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MK Haneen Zoabi (L) among protesters in Lod. March 23, 2014.
MK Haneen Zoabi (L) among protesters in Lod. March 23, 2014.
Haaretz Editorial

Despite the wide range of positions among the Arab parties, including on internal matters affecting Israel’s Arab citizens, they have succeeded in putting together a united slate for the March election. This move was forced on them by the raising of the electoral threshold, but it also represents an important opportunity for the Arab public and for Israeli democracy. It can lead to a significant increase in the political expression of Israel’s Arab citizens, and give them their proper weight in the state’s decisions.

It is important that this happen also as a counterweight to the racist and nationalist incitement by right-wing politicians. A fresh example of government incitement against Arabs can be seen in the video posted last week by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which he denigrates Zionist Camp Knesset candidate Zouheir Bahloul for vouching for the good character of the family of a man being tried for aiding Hezbollah, while also voicing disapproval of the defendant’s actions.

This example joins the regular incitement campaigns by cabinet members such as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who blamed Arab elected officials for last week’s knife attack by a Palestinian on a bus in Tel Aviv.

Israeli Arabs, who suffer from institutionalized exclusion and discrimination, must understand that the most effective way to combat these trends and assume their rightful place in Israeli society is by voting for the parties that represent them. An Arab slate that wins many Knesset seats will make the Arabs a political body that can no longer be ignored. This could not only block the passage of racist and discriminatory laws but also turn the Arabs into dominant players in the political game and involve them in national decision-making, in keeping with their numbers in the population.

The unified Arab slate does includes anti-Zionism (many of whom nevertheless support the two-state solution, which is the Zionist solution). Such positions are an inseparable part of Israeli reality, and those who hold them are part of Israeli society, just as the ultra-Orthodox Jews who do not identify with Zionism are part of Israeli society and take part in running the state.

Zionist Camp will also benefit if Arab voter turnout is high. Its leaders must declare that an Arab party is a worthy coalition partner and call on Israel’s Arabs to vote in much larger numbers.

The Arab slate’s candidates must get out the Arab vote, and Arab voters must recognize the importance of voting. It is the only way to create a real alternative to the right-wing government that excludes them.

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