The 1948 Palestinians: Why A New Political Role?
In its annual report on the state of human rights in the world, the US State Department accused the Israeli Likud party and its leader Benjamin Netanyahu of “pushing hate messages against Arab citizens of Israel during two Knesset elections last year, and of attempts to suppress the Arab voter turnout in the elections.” The report included an expanded chapter on the situation of the Palestinian Arab minority and Netanyahu’s electoral campaign against them in the two rounds of elections to the Knesset, last April and September 2019. However, it did not address the third round in March 2020 in which he escalated his racist statements against the Arabs. Also, the report states that “in the April and September elections, the Likud promoted messages that led to hatred against Arab citizens.” Furthermore, the report mentioned the message that was sent from Netanyahu’s Facebook page to hundreds of thousands of Israelis, before the elections, saying that the Arabs “want to eliminate us all.”!!!
Despite this campaign of hate, a change has been noticed in the attitude of many Israeli politicians towards the 48 Palestinians, so that it has become clear and tangible, as it calls publicly for respecting the unified voice of the Arab public. Indeed, there are those who praised the success of the Arab Joint List by attracting thousands of Jewish voters, which gives rise to hope among many Arabs and Jews. The position of the Israeli head of state Reuven Rivlin will not be the most prominent, but he was the one who rejected the aforementioned racist statements and criticized them vehemently and publicly. Rivlin had emphasized that “there are no half-citizens in Israel”. Also, former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo spoke in a remarkable interview with the Israeli Maariv newspaper about this atmosphere: “We have reached a situation in which everyone who does not agree with something is considered a traitorous political enemy. This is a terrible and dangerous matter. It is inappropriate to adopt the right’s propaganda against a former chief of staff (Benny Gantz) and prevent him from sitting with the Arabs just to portray them as enemies of the state.” He went on to say “I am waiting for the day when the Arab minority will be part of the government, and I do not want anyone to say to American Jews, you cannot be part of the administration and the government (in the United States of America).” On his part, the former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert said: “The Arabs want to achieve their citizenship and be part of the democratic political process, the spirit of Israeli society”. He added that “in a country where there are many thousands of doctors, pharmacists, nurses in hospitals, engineers, consultants, merchants, industrialists, inventors and Arab technology entrepreneurs – is it not time for their representatives in the Knesset to be partners in the design of the government as well? ” He concluded: “It is time to look for a dialogue with the Arab public in Israel. I think it is time to stop boycotting the Joint List.”
Israeli journalist Gideon Levy touched on a more serious matter when he dealt with the issue of the small number of Jews voting for the Joint List, despite their convergence on many issues, on top of which was the rejection of the racism that the current Israeli leaders are entrenched in. Levy considered that “the left’s voters were not freed from the restrictions of Zionism.” He sarcastically concluded: “In Israel, Zionism is a religion and it is compulsory. The Jew who votes for the Joint List is still considered (By the Israeli religious and nationalist right) a traitor, or at least someone who is confused. Israel of 2020 is still not ready for that. A real left wing will rise here only when we stop addiction to Zionism and we are free from its restrictions.”
In such a political milieu, and with the gradual transformation of Israel into a racist Jewish state and the establishment of the Apartheid system, the Palestinian Arab minority realized that it could not stand aside. It now considers that the vast majority of Arab political forces should put their differences aside and abandon the ultranationalist and ultra-religious positions of some other political and civil groups that are against participating in the elections. In the words of my friend the Arab Israeli renowned lawyer and writer Jawad Boulos:” The results of three consecutive electoral rounds revealed one certain fact with two faces: that the Jews of the state are still wrestling within the “time train” as enemies who are not united by fate. We, the Arab survivors of the curse of the ancient obliviousness, remained the other face of that reality, as we were the “salt of time” who forcibly entered the heart of the train, singing, planting and fighting for our right to the wind, bread and survival; but despite the echo of experiences, few of us have been trying to jump in the air and wait for new (Arab and Muslim) rescue armies on sidewalks of sand and dust.” This was his call for more indulgence in Israel’s internal and external politics; a call that has recently been adopted by the majority of the known and meaningful Arab/ Palestinian political parties as well as other political associations.