How would black Americans feel if they voted and knew that no black person would serve in the U.S. Cabinet?
Well, Israel is undertaking just such an exclusion with an even larger segment of its population and the Obama administration is celebrating the process.
We’re talking about the Joint Arab List, the coalition of four parties that are chiefly Palestinian, with some Jewish support. The List won a historic 14 seats in the Knesset last March, and back then everyone was talking about it as a sign of a healthy democracy. The New York Times even likened the List’s charismatic leader Ayman Odeh to Martin Luther King Jr in his commitment to “coexistence with the Jewish majority.”
But as Benjamin Netanyahu scrambled to form a government coalition in the last couple of weeks, with all kinds of combinations, no one has mentioned the Joint Arab List. Today the New York Times has a big article about Netanyahu’s coalition. There’s not one word in it about the parties that represent nearly 20 percent of Israel’s population. The big question mark in the story is whether the rightwing government can attract Yitzhak Herzog of Zionist Camp to become Foreign Minister.
Why is Herzog a prize and Odeh chopped liver?
Simple. Because Herzog is Jewish and Odeh is Palestinian.
So Israel tells 20 percent of its population that even if they vote, they will never have even minority representation in government. This is why many regard Israel as an apartheid system, and why we have compared the Israeli political system to Mississippi’s famously-segregated delegation to the Democratic convention in 1964. And by the way, Palestinians are a larger percentage of the Israeli population than blacks in the U.S. population.
You’d think that liberal Zionists would at least mention this flaw in the Jewish democracy when they were attacking the new government. They don’t notice either.
The New Israel Fund is devoted to “Advancing democracy and equality for all Israelis,” but its long editorial attacking the new government for undermining the “soul of the country” leaves out the racism: “the most right-wing and ultra-religious in the history of the state.”
J Street has retweeted this criticism from the JTA:
“For first time in over a decade, no parties in Israel’s governing coalition support two states”
And J Street has called on the government to make clear its commitment to two states, but again, not a mention of the Joint Arab List or Palestinians not being included in the government.
Israel calls itself a Jewish democracy. Critics and some supporters too say this means it’s actually an “ethnocracy.” In an ethnocracy, Palestinians just don’t count to make up the government leadership. Only once has an Israeli government depended on Arab parties, Yitzhak Rabin in 1992, but when the next Labor Government formed, in 1999, Ehud Barak made it a point not to include Palestinians.
Shouldn’t the press in the United States — which desegregated the military in 1948 and broke up southern Jim Crow in the 1960s — be telling us about this? Only our colleague Allison Deger has even brought up the question.
the United States does congratulate the Israeli people, the Prime Minister, and the new governing coalition on the formation of Israel’s new government. The President does look forward to working with Prime Minister Netanyahu and his new government.
The Israeli people. Yes, and how many are left out by this government?