Published 11:41 15.08.10
Latest update 11:41 15.08.10
"Arabs, get out"
If the inciters succeed in expelling the Arab MKs from the Knesset, it will be the final straw. Forget justice: it's plain stupid… and frightening.
By Gideon Levy
Alright, let's say they succeed. Let's say that the racist nationalist members of Knesset achieve their aspirations to kick the Arab member out of the Knesset. Let's assume that the aspirations of the sweet-lipped extremist Otniel Schneller, the "democrat" Ofir Akunis, and the nationalist Avigdor Lieberman come to pass and the Knesset is free of Arabs.
What would happen next? Behind this incitement campaign, like every other, there is no motivation other than arousing the darkest and most basest instincts: 'Arabs, get out' – not to mention 'Death to the Arabs.' So the Arabs are out, what then?
Even in the second round of the verbal lynching of Knesset member Hanin Zuabi this past weekend, including all the lies ( she "fought with Israeli soldiers," joined the "terrorists," "objected to removing evacuating wounded soldiers") put forward by politicians and television show hosts, calls arose to eject her from the Knesset, naturally.
It's already completely kosher – the calls to eject Hanin, and you, Ahmed Tibi, Mohammed Barakeh, Jamal Zahalka, and their friends are no longer only right-wing fantasy. The legitimization of the calls, in the wake of the crushing silence of most other politicians, demonstrates how deeply the aspiration behind it has put down roots.
They may be ignoramuses when it comes to democratic ideals - but those calling for the ejection of Arab MKs must at least say what will happen once Israeli Arabs are deprived of representation in the Knesset. Will Arab citizens vote for Yisrael Beitenu? Doubtful. Will they vote for Akunis in the primaries? Unlikely.
Will they place their ballot for McCarthyist Kadima? Change their views and join the Zionist movement, which brought them the Nakba - only don't ever mention it? Become Zu Artzeinu activists? Im Tirtzu foamers-at-the-mouth? Or maybe somehow they'll disappear entirely?
The State of Israel owes a great debt to the Arab public and to the members of Knesset that represent it. They are more separatist than the Basques in Spain (although with many more reasons to be separatist than the Basques), and also, of course, much less violent and subversive than them.
The fact that they have yet to choose to boycott the state and its institutions and to stop participating in the game of democracy, which is corrupt to begin with, as far as they are concerned – a game from which they are almost completely excluded – is nothing short of amazing.
Instead of thanking them for this, instead of appreciating their tolerance and restraint, their basic loyalty – we push them out, specifically now. Forget morals and democracy, justice and equality – is there anything stupider than this? Is it not clear to the inciters what the alternative is to the continued participation of the Arabs in the game of democracy?
The lives of Arab Israelis bear no resemblance to the lives of a Jewish Israeli. He is born into crowded conditions and neglected neighborhoods. In 62 years, the state has not lifted a finger to help the Arab populace, which constitutes a full fifth of the state's citizens, to establish a single new settlement.
The Arabs are weaned on deprivation from birth, the discrimination follows them from their earliest days. They can never bring up their past, they cannot define themselves as they wish ('Palestinian?' How dare they?), and sometimes they don’t even feel comfortable speaking their own language.
Try being an Arab and finding an apartment or a job. Surrounded by Zionist institutions that work to banish them, from the Keren Kayemet LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund to the Israel Lands Administration, a new set of laws intended to repress them, a justice system that discriminates between them and the Jewish citizens – an entire web of life of a second-class citizen in every way possible.
Day and night they hear that they are a 'demographic threat' or a 'fifth column,' that the Negev and Galil must be 'Judaized,' that they must be expelled from their lands. Now they hear that the Knesset must be purified of their representatives, as well.
It's likely to happen. In a society whose institutional defenses of democracy have started to deteriorate, nothing is safe any more. One day, perhaps we will no longer have Arab MKs, or at least none that represent their constituents. And on that day, Arab Israelis will know that their exclusion from their state has become total and complete.
And what do the inciters believe will replace Hadash, United Arab List - Ta'al, and Balad? And who will replace Barakeh, Zuabi and Tibi? What will replace the speeches, difficult and bitter as they are, from the Knesset podium? The campaign trails and assemblies? The public protest that is for the most part law-abiding?
You know the answer very well. The answer is frightening and dangerous.