Friday, April 3, 2020

The failure for Israeli Arab voters isn't in the Joint Arab List being denied a place in Israel’s government - by Jonathan S. Tobin

One shouldn’t expect Arab voters to be ardent Zionists, yet they can’t expect to be treated as full partners when the people who claim to speak for them want to pull down the state as it is and replace it with something that will disenfranchise Jews.

Jonathan S. Tobin..
03 April '20..

It turns out that some ultra-Orthodox Jews are not the only ones resisting Israel’s stringent regulations about social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. There have also been incidents in which residents of Israeli Arab communities are not following rules. In one case, police efforts to enforce social distancing led to a riot in an Arab neighborhood in the city of Jaffa with protesters assaulting police and burning tires and garbage dumpsters in a scene reminiscent of the first intifada.

Critics of Israel are falsely portraying this unfortunate episode as evidence of the country’s mistreatment of Arab citizens. This is nonsense, though at a time when the BDS movement has gained support and leading Democrats, such as Sen. Bernie Sanders, routinely refer to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “racist,” it can’t be ignored.

Efforts to promote this misleading narrative have gained ground since the March 2 Knesset election, when the Joint Arab List won a record 15 seats. The party’s success was rooted in a strong turnout of Arab voters. But while the Joint Arab List’s success is proof of Israeli democracy, the fact that it will not be part of the next government is being depicted as evidence of racism.

Part of the disappointment being expressed by the Arab population stems from the actions of Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz. Though he eventually decided to throw in with Netanyahu and create a unity government, Gantz spent weeks flirting with the idea of forming a government with the help of the Joint List. He decided against it in part because of resistance from members of his own party, and also because polls showed that Israelis were outraged about the notion. The Joint List is a coalition of advocates for a Communist state, an Islamist state, a Palestinian nationalist state and a pan-Arab state, and has no place in any government of a state that they wish to destroy. But Gantz’s decision is being depicted in Israel’s left-wing media as an insult to all Arab voters, a theme that has been picked up in the international media.

The problem here is not just the distorted coverage of Israeli attitudes towards the Joint List. As unfair as the racism canard being thrown about with respect to opposition to its participation in any Israeli government may be, that debate has unfortunately polarized the discussion about the place of Arab citizens in Israeli society. If the party that Arabs voted for are “terrorists” and supporters of those who wish to tear down the Jewish state, then that undermines efforts to fully integrate Arabs into Israeli society.

(Continue to Full Column)

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