Israel disqualifies Arab parties

Posted on January 14, 2009


From an email i recieved from a Jewish friend

Israel’s Arab parties, Balad and United Arab List-Ta’al, are disqualified from running in the upcoming Israeli elections in February, the country’s Central Elections Committee ruled Monday. This is a shocking turn of events in a country whose Arab citizens (to say nothing of those under its occupation) comprise at least 20% of its total population.

In the bellicose atmosphere that prevails at present, however, the fundamentals of democracy have been set aside. This is not the first time that the Israeli government has made efforts to disqualify the Arab parties from running in national elections, and in the past the Israeli High Court of Justice has blocked such efforts. But it is not clear that the Court will rule against the present attempt. Even if the Court overturns a ban on Arab parties, the widespread anger Palestinian citizens of Israel have expressed in response to the recent attacks on Gaza suggests that many Arab voters may refuse to participate in electing a new government next month.

As UAL-Ta’al’s Member of Knesset Ahmad Tibi said yesterday during a Knesset hearing to discuss the banning of the Arab parties, “we object to targeting civilians and you are committing genocide in Gaza. You’re murdering children.” In light of such outraged expressions by popular leaders such as Tibi, there is unlikely to be any eagerness among Palestinian citizens of Israel to participate in electing a new government that will certainly support the current military action against Gaza.

The ultra-nationalist Jewish parties which sponsored the ban, Israel Beitenu and National Union-National Religious Party, consider the Arab parties to represent a fifth column in Israel. There are signs that such extreme sentiments are becoming part of the mainstream discourse among Jews in Israel. Last month, Tsipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister and prime ministerial candidate, seemed to echo such views when she suggested that the future creation of a Palestinian state would offer a “national solution” for Arab citizens of Israel. Her remarks, which stoked fear and outrage among Palestinian citizens of Israel, were widely interpreted as suggesting that Arab citizens should prepare themselves for the possibility of involuntary de-patriation.

Indeed, as the Israeli media reported soon afterwards, new polls show that Jewish Israelis increasingly favor the idea of ethnic cleansing, or “transfer,” of Palestinians out of the territories, and of Arab citizens out of Israel . The effort to ban Arab parties from participating in the upcoming elections is another sign that Israeli politics are increasingly driven by ethnoreligious xenophobia and political absolutism.

The military assault on Gaza — and Israel’s continuing refusal to negotiate a fair settlement with the Palestinians — have certainly intensified such ethnocentrist nationalism, but public support in Israel for such attacks may also be seen as a politically contrived symptom of the increasingly extremist national discourse.

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