Racism is not what has kept Arab parties out of Israeli government coalitions, nor is it the reason that Blue and White leader Benny Gantz has ruled out any coalition with the Arab Joint List.
By Daniel Krygier
Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint Arab List, recently blasted accused Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz of racism. Odeh’s accusation comes after Gantz ruled out a future Blue and White-led center-left government coalition with the Arab parties.
Preaching from a false moral high ground, Odeh stated:
“I don’t know why he rejects [my offer]…..If he is really for peace, equality, democracy, social justice — he should accept it. But apparently, he is against [those values]. Apparently, he refers to me as ‘an Arab’ — and that is racism.”
However, reality tells a very different story. Israeli-Arab citizens have served in Knesset since the very first Israeli election in 1949. Currently, 12 members of Knesset are of Arab origin; the majority of them are Muslims. Israeli-Arab citizens have served in prominent positions as diplomats, Supreme Court judges, lawyers, IDF officers, scientists and doctors.
Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Opposition leader Benny Gantz favor peace, equality and social justice. Bridging socio-economic gaps and investing in Israel’s Arab minority community has become a priority for Israel.
In fact, polls reveal that most Israelis support equality in Israeli society and peace with Israel’s Arab neighbors. Ironically, Israeli-Arab leaders like Ayman Odeh and his colleagues have emerged as the main obstacle to socio-economic integration of Israeli Arabs.
Despite the fact that most Israeli Arabs favor integration, many Arab politicians in Knesset have opposed it on ideological grounds. Instead of focusing on improving the daily lives of Israeli-Arab citizens, radicalized Arab Knesset members increasingly side with Israel’s mortal enemies and support terrorism against Israel.
For example, during a visit to the US, former Arab MK Hanin Zoabi, who calls IDF soldiers murderers, said that Israel should be dissolved and that Americans should be “liberated from the Zionist lobby.” Zoabi also joined the violent Turkish anti-Israel Mavi Marmara ship, which attempted to break Israel’s blockade on Gaza.
While most Arab Knesset members support the establishment of a 22nd Arab state next to Israel, many of them simultaneously oppose the existence of a single Jewish nation-state. While Odeh and his Arab colleagues openly support a Jew-free Muslim Arab state in Judea and Samaria, they also seek to undermine Israel’s existence as the national homeland of the Jewish people. Instead, they seek to gradually replace a Jewish-majority Israel with a Muslim Arab majority-society by supporting the “right of return” of millions of foreign-born Arabs into Israel.
It is this political extremism and not their Arab ethnicity that has kept Arab parties out of Israeli government coalitions. This is also the reason that Blue and White leader Benny Gantz ruled out any coalition with extremist Arab parties led by Odeh.
It’s Not the Netanyahu Government
Some liberals mistakenly believe that Arab political leaders like Odeh merely oppose the current Netanyahu government. However, the same Odeh and his Arab colleagues boycotted the funeral of late Israeli President Shimon Peres, who for decades had strived for peace between Arabs and Jews in Israel and beyond.
Many liberals increasingly attack Israel’s imperfect democracy. By contrast, the Scandinavian democracies are often praised as role models for “liberal” democracies. However, in “liberal” Sweden, roughly 20 % of the voters are demonized for supporting the anti-immigration, right-wing Sweden Democrat party. Denmark is considered as one of the world’s most liberal democracies. However, the Danish parliament does not accept parliamentarians who side with Denmark’s enemies and oppose the very existence of the Danish nation-state.
In other words, racists like Odeh and his radical Arab political colleagues would not be allowed to sit in the liberal Danish parliament. The big question is: Should racist enemies of Israel who neglect their Israeli-Arab constituents’ well-being in favor of inciting against the Jewish state be allowed to remain in the Knesset?