Why Arab parties are never in governing coalitions

###And why that isn’t likely to change any time soon.

In our post the other day, we dangerously waded into the current election and predicted that even though it is probable that Labor will win more seats than Likud, since the Right-wing/religious parties will have more seats overall, Netanyahu is more likely form the next government. (We still think this is most likely, but pollsters have had a difficult time getting the numbers for the small parties right recently, we could be in for a disappointment ourselves. Time will tell.)

One of the reasons we gave was that the Joint Arab list has said it will not join a coalition, with party leader Ayman Odeh even saying he wants to lead the opposition. “I believe that whether Herzog or Netanyahu are tasked with forming the government, they will both head to a national unity cabinet. That means we will lead the opposition, which is an extremely important podium.” he said.

The current polls give the Joint Arab list a strong chance to be the third-largest party in the Knesset (albeit with only 13 or so seats), which under normal circumstances would give that party a good opportunity to get the position Odeh desires. But this just simply is not going to happen.

The reason why Odeh will not lead the opposition is not because he is Arab, though that is certainly the reason given by many Arabs and the anti-Israel crowd. The real reason why Odeh or any other member of the Arab parties currently in the Joint List will never head the opposition is because they are not Zionist. It will come as no surprise to the followers of this blog that the Judean People’s Front is no fan of the Left-wing parties in Israel, but as much as we disagree with them, we recognize that they are still Zionist parties (however misguided they may be).

The problem has always been that while Arabs do often vote for and are elected as members of mainstream Zionist parties, parties catering specifically to the Arab sector have always been non or anti-Zionist, run by communists, Islamists, and/or traitors who openly side with the enemy.

(For JPF’s posters about the Arab MKs click here)

###The Arab Parties

Let’s take a quick look at the ideologies of these parties from Wikipedia:

Hadash (the only joint Arab-Jewish party):

Hadash defines itself as a non-Zionist party, originally in keeping with Marxist opposition to nationalism. It calls for recognition of Palestinian Arabs as a national minority within Israel. Hadash shifted to a more Arab nationalist appeal after running on a joint list with Ta’al in 2003. Avirama Golan of Haaretz wrote in 2007 that Hadash had “succumbed to the separatist-nationalist and populist stream…”

Balad

Balad is a political party whose stated purpose is the “struggle to transform the state of Israel into a democracy for all its citizens, irrespective of national or ethnic identity”. It opposes the idea of Israel as a solely Jewish state, and supports its recasting as a binational state.

Raam

Its constituency consists mostly of religious or nationalist Israeli Arabs, and enjoys particular popularity among the Bedouin… The southern faction of the Islamic Movement is now the dominant force in the party, whilst other factions include the Arab National Party.

Ta’al run by Ahmed Tibi

Tibi is an Anti-Zionist. He supports an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders and a two-state solution, with a Palestinian state established alongside Israel. He also opposes Israel’s character as a Jewish state, claiming that its self-definition as Jewish is racist, and favors Israel becoming a “state of all its citizens”. Accordingly, he supports removing icons that represent the special status of the Jewish majority, including theLaw of Return, the flag, and the national anthem. He opposes the recruitment of Israeli-Arabs into the IDF. Tibi also supports the Palestinian right of return, calling it a prerequisite for reconciliation, but has stated that he believes only a small percentage of Palestinian refugees would actually choose to move to Israel.

###The Arab Leaders

Now some more info about those running these parties:

Balad used to be run by Azmi Bishara, until he resigned in 2007 while under investigation for passing sensitive information to Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War of 2006. While this was shocking, considering that he traveled to Syria in 2001 to give a speech in support of Assad and Hezbollah, it probably shouldn’t have. Since then, Balad has been run by Jamal Zahalaka who publicly calls Israel an apartheid state. Remember all those black members of the South African parliament who openly spoke against their government without fear? What? They didn’t exist because apartheid systems don’t allow for the disadvantaged group to serve or speak freely? Interesting. Zahalaka is of course joined by the famous Hanin Zoabi who participated in the IHH attempt to break through the legal naval blockade of Gaza and last summer publicly said the murderers of Naftali, Gil-ad, and Eyal were not terrorists.

Hadash used to be run by Mohammad Barakeh who in 2009 was “indicted on four counts for actions taken at political demonstrations.” It is now headed by Ayman Odeh who also heads the Joint List ticket. The most covered statement he has made during this campaign has centered around his alleged acceptance of Israel as the Jewish state:

I believe that the Jewish people have a right to self-determination, which the State of Israel has fulfilled. The Palestinian state is meant to realize the right to self-determination of the Arab Palestinian people, and here it ends. In other words, the fact that Jews in Israel enjoy the right to self-determination doesn’t mean they should discriminate against the Arabs. I certainly won’t agree that in my homeland — which is today a joint homeland for both our peoples — the state will be defined and effectively act as the state of only one nation. I want to see myself everywhere and be a full partner.

####There’s a lot in there, so let’s unpack it a little.

First he states that he believes Israel fulfilled the legitimate right to self-determination by the Jews. Sounds good to us. The he says that a future Palestinian state should do the same for the Palestinians. Again, makes sense (if a state were to ever exist peacefully). He continues that Jews in Israel shouldn’t discriminate against Arabs. No arguments here, though we would remind him that discrimination across the board is far worse in every single Arab country.

However, his acceptance of Jewish self-determination is then undone when he says that he is against the state being defined “as the state of only one nation.” He advocates establishing a Palestinian state in which Palestinian Arab nationalism will be the sole nationality, but insists that Israel become a binational state. He does not want to be a “full partner.” He wants to undermine the foundation of the State of Israel and fundamentally alter its makeup.

It is Odeh’s Hadash party that sent Raja Zaatra, a member of the party’s secretariat and a PR official, to a panel discussion at Bar Ilan University, where he said, “Where did ISIS (Islamic State) learn all these things? Look at what the Zionist movement did in 1948, the acts of rape, murder, plunder, and mass slaughter that were committed.” In response, the Joint List, instead of condemning the remarks and firing Zaatra, quickly issued an order to its members to refrain from controversial remarks that would hurt them at the polls. It also said, “The remarks were made in response to a provocation by one of the panel’s participants, who claimed that ISIS learned its actions from the Joint List.” Such “provocations,” if they indeed happened, might have been somewhat hyperbolic, but given that the Joint List includes Islamists like Ibrahim Sarsur and Masud Ghnaim of Ra’am - who have not only compared Israel to Nazi Germany and openly praised Hezbollah and Iran, but actually called for the establishment of a Caliphate in place of Israel - it isn’t totally off-base.

So let’s review the components of the Joint Arab List, shall we? It consists of communists who would replace democracy, anti-Zionists seeking to undo the Jewish character of the Jewish State, Islamists who want to replace Israel with a Caliphate, and supporters of terrorism and enemy dictatorships. Do these sound like people you would expect to be in an Israeli governing coalition? Do these sound like people who you would expect to even be allowed to serve in the Israeli parliament?

They aren’t being marginalized because they are Arab, they are being marginalized because they are extremists!

###Is this even legal?

This is even more astounding when we examine Basic Law: The Knesset. Most democracies have restrictions on what are and are not acceptable political parties, with strictures varying from country to country. Israel’s Basic Law discusses this in Section 7A “Prevention of participation of candidates list:”

A candidates list shall not participate in elections to the Knesset, and a person shall not be a candidate for election to the Knesset, if the goals or actions of the list or the actions of the person, expressly or by implication, include one of the following:

(1) negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state;

(2) incitement to racism;

(3) support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel.

Are these unreasonable demands? Acceptance of democracy and the Jewish character of Israel, rejecting racism, not supporting violence against the state; I find it hard to believe anyone would say these are overly restrictive.

But these very lax guidelines have been violated by every single one of the parties making up the Joint Arab List!

The Supreme Court has overturned every single attempt to disqualify an Arab party or MK from running, ostensibly because the actions haven’t been proven sufficiently (a ridiculous excuse in most cases) but in truth because they don’t want to disqualify Arabs from running regardless of their offenses.

The only parties ever successfully banned from running for the Knesset were Kach and Kahane Chai and were subsequently banned outright after being reclassified as terrorist organizations. If you look at the actions and statements made by these groups, I trust you’re happy they were banned for their racism and threats to democracy. However, the statements and actions of many of the current members of the Arab parties are just as bad, if not worse and yet they are allowed to continue to run, serve, and gain parliamentary immunity.

Not only is this in itself racist, as it holds Jews and Arabs to different standards, but it is incredibly destructive to the Arab community in Israel. Currently, Israeli Arabs overwhelmingly vote for the Arab parties available, but if these extremists were banned, it might be possible for a party to form and gain votes that actually cares about the Arab citizens of Israel. Such a party could join a governing coalition (even if it asks for a clause exempting it from voting in favor of military operations). But instead, Arabs continue to vote for extremists who will never join a government or actually work to better their own communities and instead fan the flames of extremism, making it more difficult for Arabs to integrate into Israeli society.

###Freedom of Expression vs. Extremism

Still, the Judean People’s Front is conflicted about this law: should the government decide who can and can’t run in elections? Is it better to force extremists underground or allow them to stay public? In debates about citizens’ freedoms, we are inclined to lean towards more freedom and allow extremists the right to run and lose in elections.

But, if the law exists, it must be applied equally across the board. If Jewish extremists are going to be banned from running, so should Arab extremists. If the Supreme Court believes extremists should still be able to run, then it should rule Section 7 of Basic Law: Knesset to be unconstitutional. But until this is done, extremists of all stripes must be treated equally.

Until Israel’s Arabs get a party that is more interested in bettering the lives of its community than it is in extremism, there will never be an Arab party in the coalition. This is both detrimental to the Arabs themselves who will lack true leadership and to the rest of the State of Israel that will continue to lose the potential of 20% of its citizens.

We would be wise to remember the words of Ze’ev Jabotinsky who said, “in every cabinet where the prime minister is a Jew, the vice-premiership shall be offered to an Arab and vice versa.” But as long as the only Arabs in government are extremists, communists, and Islamists, this vision will go unrealized and we all shall suffer the consequences.