Scan­dals and gaffes could haunt Hil­lary

Lesotho Times - - International -

JERUSALEM — The real Arab Spring is bloom­ing in Is­rael. Arab ac­tivists are us­ing the Jewish state’s ro­bust democ­racy and in­de­pen­dent in­sti­tu­tions to push their agenda of rad­i­cal, but peace­ful, po­lit­i­cal change.

A rain­bow coali­tion of na­tion­al­ists, Is­lamists, fem­i­nists, so­cial­ists and sup­port­ers of Jewish-arab co­op­er­a­tion stood in last month’s elec­tion. The Joint List won 13 seats in the Knes­set, the Is­raeli par­lia­ment, mak­ing it the third largest party.

The un­prece­dented co-op­er­a­tion be­tween for­mer ri­vals stands in stark con­trast to Is­rael’s neigh­bours. Syria is mired in mur­der­ous civil war; Egypt has re­verted to au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism, Libya is a failed state.

Le­banon’s frag­ile re­li­gious bal­ance has been up­ended by the in­flux of Syr­ian refugees. Only Tu­nisia, the cra­dle of the Arab spring, has deep­ened its democ­racy, but re­mains men­aced by Is­lamist ter­ror­ism.

The suc­cess of the Joint List is an ex­am­ple for the wider Arab world, says Ay­man Odeh, its leader. Mr Odeh, a 40-year-old lawyer from Haifa, is now one of the coun­try’s best-known politi­cians.

He won wide­spread ac­co­lades for his calm, rea­soned re­sponse to be­ing ver­bally abused on tele­vi­sion by Avig­dor Lieber­man, a for­mer for­eign min­is­ter.

“We live in the Mid­dle East, in an era when peo­ple are be­ing killed be­cause they have a dif­fer­ent eth­nic­ity, reli­gion or ide­ol­ogy. We have a dif­fer­ent mes­sage: to ac­cept dif­fer­ences, and work side by side to achieve our goals. We hope our ex­am­ple will af­fect all the Arab world,” he said.

The tri­umph of the Joint List is caus­ing waves across the re­gion, said Eyad Abu Shakra, a com­men­ta­tor at Asharq Al-awsat, an Arab news­pa­per. “The Arab me­dia were very happy. They saw that Arabs in Is­rael have learned to play the game, to use the sys­tem. Some cyn­ics said that Is­raelis only un­der­stand the lan­guage of vi­o­lence. But there was more re­lief and ad­mi­ra­tion that they could put their dif­fer­ences aside and come out with the third largest block.”

There is a long road ahead be­fore Is­rael’s Arab mi­nor­ity en­joys full civil rights and equal­ity. Twen­ty­one per cent of the pop­u­la­tion, 1.7 mil­lion peo­ple, are Arab (ex­clud­ing Jews from Arab coun­tries).

Many are in­te­grated into Is­raeli so­ci­ety. There are Arab judges, diplo­mats, army of­fi­cers, lawyers and busi­ness peo­ple.

But around half of the Arab pop­u­la­tion lives in poverty. Arabs are more likely to be un­em­ployed. Is­raeli prime min­is­ter Benjamin Ne- tanyahu (be­low left) spoke for many when he warned that Arab vot­ers were turn­ing out “in droves”. For many Is­raelis on the Right, Arabs are seen as the en­emy within. Ne­tanyahu later apol­o­gised.

The Joint List will bring a new fo­cus on the dis­crim­i­na­tion faced by Is­rael’s Arab mi­nor­ity, says Has­san Jaba­reen, direc­tor of Adalah, the Legal Cen­tre for Arab Mi­nor­ity Rights in Is­rael. “Is­raeli Arabs are put into the cat­e­gory of an en­emy, which is why it is OK to ex­clude them, and which is why it is im­por­tant for us to be to­gether in Par­lia­ment and to fight for our rights. The par­ties come from dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives, but the Knes­set does not dis­tin­guish be­tween Arab com­mu­nists or Arab na­tion­al­ists.”

The long-term aim is to turn Is­rael into a bi-na­tional state. “Arabs in Is­rael are a sig­nif­i­cant part of the state. You can­not say the so­lu­tion is one state for Jews and an­other for Pales­tini­ans in the West Bank,” says Mr Jaba­reen. “You have to think about dif­fer­ent so­lu­tions and make them vis­i­ble.”

The first step is for the Is­raeli Left to re­alise that it needs to work to­gether with the Joint List. “This elec­tion will show the Left that the Arabs have to be a part­ner, and Is­rael needs to change its con­sti­tu­tion to be a bi-na­tional state for both Arabs and Jews.”

Even among Left-wing Is­raelis that idea com­mands lit­tle sup­port. More re­al­is­tic is an al­liance to fight for full civil and eco­nomic rights for all Is­rael’s cit­i­zens.

The model is Martin Luther King, says Mr Odeh. King and his sup­port­ers marched to Wash­ing­ton in 1963, de­mand­ing jobs and free­dom. Mr Odeh has pre­pared a 10-year plan to close the civic and eco­nomic gap be­tween Is­rael’s Jewish and Arab pop­u­la­tion. “We in­tend to march to Jerusalem, to raise aware­ness for our 10-year plan and to de­mand democ­racy and jus­tice for all.” — Newsweek.

THE head of Is­rael’s Arab par­lia­men­tary bloc Ay­man odeh (sec­ond from left) marches on 26 march, 2015 along­side sev­eral dozen pro­test­ers in sup­port of Be­douin Arabs.

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