Israeli intolerance: Palestinian citizens are ‘barred’ from governing coalition

on 5 Comments

At the Daily Beast, Peter Beinart has a fine post on the haredi-secular tensions in Israel being related to the discrimination against Palestinian citizens. He avoids saying what he said at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations a month back, that Palestinians under occupation must get the vote for the government that controls their lives. But he makes the political point that I have made over and over here: that Arab parties inside Israel are excluded from governing coalitions. So of course they’re right wing. This is the Jim Crow south, this is 1964 and the Democratic Party excluding the Mississippi Freedom delegation of black delegates to the nominating convention.

And of course it is related to the exclusion of Palestinians from the armed forces. Pre-1948 U.S.

And why must Israeli prime ministers include ultra-Orthodox parties in their governments? In large measure because they will not include Israel’s Arab parties. Israel’s Arab citizens (those within Israel’s 1967 borders) can vote and elect representatives to the Knesset. But by tradition, an Israeli government cannot rely on Arab parties to stay in power. It must enjoy a Jewish majority in the Knesset. Some justify this tradition by noting that the political parties favored by Israeli Arabs are non-Zionist: they wish Israel were not a Jewish state. But, as it happens, some of the ultra-Orthodox parties that have sat in Israeli governments are non-Zionist too, since many ultra-Orthodox Jews believe that the creation of a Jewish state should await the messiah.

What gives the ultra-Orthodox the ability to oppress women, in other words, is partly a political system in which Israel’s Arab citizens are largely barred from power. What the protesters in Beit Shemesh and their supporters in the United States need to remember is the fundamental interconnectedness of equal citizenship. When you deny it to one group, you produce ripple effects that undermine the equality of others as well. Israel’s declaration of independence promises “complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of race, religion and sex.” For Israel to fulfill that promise to its female citizens, it must start fulfilling it to its Arab ones as well.

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5 Responses

  1. Richard Witty
    December 30, 2011, 12:43 pm

    Poll: Party headed by Israeli journalist Yair Lapid could become second-largest in Knesset
    If Israel’s most popular news anchor sets up a new party in the next elections, he could get 15 Knesset seats, he could potentionally form a coalition that would rival that of Netanyahu’s Likud.

    “Should Lapid and Deri set up their parties and link with the center-left parties in the Knesset – such as Kadima, the Labor Party, Meretz, and the Arab parties, they would get 63 seats and a majority in the Knesset.”

    The math of the article requires the Arab parties and Hadash participation, to form a non-likud government.

    I think its a good thing for two reasons:

    1. It normalizes the relations between citizens of Israel from all ethnicities, participants rather than subordinate in any way.

    2. It forces the question onto the Arab parties of whether they are fundamentally resisting or fundamentally participating.

  2. pabelmont
    December 30, 2011, 1:26 pm

    Racism is indeed a fine thing, keeping people who should not be in it in power. Too bad for those excluded, but what is political power for, anyway, if not to be used? (As, in the USA and Israel, it is asked, what is the use of having a vastly powerful and destructive army if you don’t use it?) Power is about power, and is never relinquished without a fight.

  3. Krauss
    December 30, 2011, 1:33 pm

    Israel behind the ’67 lines is Jim Crow in the South.
    Beyond the ’67 lines, in the West Bank it’s Apartheid South Africa but perhaps even worse.

    The ‘liberal’ Zionists must understand that even if Israel ends the occupation, the discrimination inside the green line is enormous. The occupation is the worst atrocity, but is not the last.

  4. eee
    December 30, 2011, 3:57 pm

    So many falsehoods in one article.
    Let’s start from the obvious. Israeli Arabs are not excluded from the armed forces. They have a choice to serve if they want to and quite a few do.
    Second, coalitions are formed based on having similar goals. Since the goal of the Arab parties is to dismantle Israel as a Jewish state, why would Zionist parties form a coalition with them? The Arab parties are not excluded because they are Arabs, they are excluded because of their ideology. When the communist party had mostly Jewish MK’s it was excluded also. If an Arab party is formed that accepts Israel as a Jewish state, you can be sure it will find its way into a coalition.
    Third, Israel chose proportional representation thus assuring that Arabs will be represented in the Knesset. It could have easily created districts and the Arabs would have been much less represented. Comparing Israel to Jim Crow South is ridiculous. Israel has done everything to maximize the effect of Arab votes, exactly the opposite of what done in the South with black votes.

    • Newclench
      December 31, 2011, 4:46 pm

      @eeee: “Since the goal of the Arab parties is to dismantle Israel as a Jewish state, why would Zionist parties form a coalition with them?”

      This is a strange statement. The legislative priorities of the Arab and Arab-Jewish parties don’t focus on dismantling Israel. In fact, their on record making sure that the parts of Israel with an Arab majority remain in Israel.
      The Rabin government included Arab parties ‘on the outside’ allowing him to demonstrate that there was nothing that crazy about including them, while at the same time bowing to the racist imperative that they not be formally included.
      But what gets me is – let’s say that these parties want to use their power to ‘de-Jewify’ the Israeli state. Well, they can’t without a lot more votes. But other parties that are anti-Zionist (the ultra-Orthodox) fit in with gov’t coalitions without any fuss, and others that are explicitly against democratic principles (wanting to transfer Israelis, take away citizenship, take away the right to vote, etc.) are even allowed to pass some of their anti-democratic legislation.
      Denying the vibrancy of Israel’s democracy, which includes Palestinian Israelis, is a foolish and counterfactual position to take. But so is denying the structural racism that reduces the political rights of Palestinian Israelis as a national minority, and as individuals.

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