Friday, May 1, 2015

Don't misinterpret the showing of the "Arab List" in Israel's election

I've recently seen some facebook posts and gotten email talking about the "big breakthrough" and supposedly exciting new development of the "Arab List" coming in as the 3rd largest party in the Knesset. This, some pro-Palestinian activists think, could usher in a new political alignment that could advance the Palestinian cause.

However, a look at the hard reality should dispel these illusions. The fact is that this recent election shows a stronger than expected drive to the far right, and more intransigence among Israeli Jews to not only continue to deny basic human rights to Palestinians, but to go further down the road to outright theft of all remaining Palestinian land and ethnic cleansing.

Why was there an Arab List? Because in hopes of reducing the number of Palestinians elected to the Knesset the minimum per cent of the vote required to get elected was raised.

The previous Knesset had 11 Palestinian members divided into 4 different parties. In order to keep from being decimated, the Palestinian parties (including the Israeli Communist Party which also had a Jewish MK) agreed to form a single ticket to improve their chances of at least holding on to their seats in the Knesset.

The result was 13 seats for the Palestinian representatives. The fact that they came in as the 3rd largest party is meaningless. Parties in Israel are very numerous and governments are always formed by a coalition of several parties. At least 6 parties have formed the new Netanyahu government, there isn't much ideological reason to prevent them all from merging into one big party, but that's not how Israeli politics work.

The 4 Palestinian parties didn't dissolve their identity into one big slate--they ran on one ticket for practical purposes. Their ideological differences remain (Communist...whatever that means in today's world), religious (two of the parties) and nationalist (Balad).

Another fact is important to note. No zionist party (and they are ALL zionist including Tzipi Livni's and Labor...Meretz, with 4 seats, is liberal/zionist) has ever and will never collaborate with Palestinians to achieve any goal, large or small. They are boycotted and isolated by all the other parties. Palestinian MKs are also often denied the right that take their seat in the Knesset and also expelled or suspended for being too vigorous in defending Palestinian rights (Haneen Zoabi of Balad has been the main target of zionist MKs).

The elections results have created a pure far rightist majority with no moderates. Two-states, even as a phony bargaining chip is out the window. None of the parties (except the Arab List, of course) campaigned on improving relations between Palestinians and Jews, be they Jewish settlers or plain old Jewish citizens who are increasingly trampling on the right of Palestinian citizens of Israel (who aren't real citizens with full rights..the trend is, in fact, to pass more laws taking away rights from non-Jewish citizens).

This is what's happening in Israel. It shouldn't be sugar coated, but exposed for what it is. Don't sew illusions about some new "progressive development" that doesn't exist.

We all should listen to what MK Haneen Zoabi, of the Balad Party, the person I consider the most outstanding leader of the Palestinian people in Israel (and maybe of all of Palestine). She is currently on a speaking tour of the US. I heard her talk to a packed auditorium at NYU last week.

What did she say about the showing of the Arab List in the last election? She said it doesn't change anything. Being in the Knesset gives her and her colleges a platform, and some publicity to fight for basic equality and democracy for all. Aside from a handful of Israeli Jews of conscience, who are not to be found in the Zionist parties, Palestinians have no allies inside the zionist state.

Zoabi put it to the audience at NYU, "it is not possible to change things from within Israel. It is up to you in the USA and around the world to pressure Israel from without." She urged the audience to support the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement.

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