Zionism is nothing more – but also nothing less – than the Jewish people’s sense of origin and destination in the land linked eternally with its name. It is also the instrument whereby the Jewish nation seeks an authentic fulfillment of itself. And the drama is enacted in 20 states comprising a hundred million people in 4 1/2 million square miles, with vast resources. The issue therefore is not whether the world will come to terms with Arab nationalism. The question is at what point Arab nationalism, with its prodigious glut of advantage, wealth and opportunity, will come to terms with the modest but equal rights of another Middle Eastern nation to pursue its life in security and peace –
Abba Eban, Israel’s former UN ambassador and foreign minister, 1975
55.9% of [Israeli] Arabs resigned themselves to Israel as a state, with a Jewish majority… [However] resignation… does not mean preference… the Arabs prefer a binational state to a Jewish and democratic state. [N]or does it imply justification of the status quo, since 69.6% of the Arab respondents think that it is not justified that Israel maintains a Jewish majority…. The proportion of Arabs denying Israel’s right to exist as a state was… 11.2% in 2003, and 24.5% in 2012. 82.2% of the Arabs in 2012 accused Jews of the Nakba [the “catastrophe” of Jewish victory in the 1948 Independence War]…The percentage of Arabs holding accommodating and compromising stances has been steadily decreasing and has shrunk to a minority. –
Prof. Sami Smooha, in a study of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel, 2013
The results of the election are in, but the consequences are still far from certain – in terms of both domestic impact and foreign ramifications.
US tax dollars to mobilize Arab vote?
Much is yet in flux. Emotions are still running high.
Some are aghast, some elated at the outcome – at least, so far.
It is still early to predict the composition or durability of the coalition with any confidence. Although a narrow, allegedly right-leaning government seems most likely, it is not implausible that the pig-headed stupidity of potential participants in such a coalition will prevent its formation. Through ill-considered brinkmanship, extravagant demands and excessive intransigence, they may yet force Benjamin Netanyahu to reconsider what he has so far resolutely rejected: the dubious prospect of a so-called national unity government with Isaac Herzog’s so-called Zionist Union.
It was undoubtedly one of Israel’s most closely competed and acrimonious elections ever. Every trick in the book – dirty or otherwise – was employed to unseat Netanyahu, with unprecedented foreign intervention harnessed to this end.
This Thursday, The Jerusalem Post’s Gil Hoffman, in a piece dealing with the role played by the Obama administration during the election, wrote that it was allegedly larger than reported in the US. He cites sources in Washington, according to whom
“there was money moving that included taxpayer US dollars, through nonprofit organizations…. various liberal groups in the United States… were raising millions to fund a campaign called V15 against Prime Minister Netanyahu.”
These sources charge that this anti-Netanyahu endeavor included an effort “to organize the [Israeli] Arabs into one party and teach them about voter turnout.”
Contentious & controversial
It is against this backdrop that Netanyahu’s impassioned Facebook plea-cum-caveat to his potential supporters regarding the impact of the Arab vote should be judged.
His warning that
“the right-wing government is in danger… Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls. Left-wing organizations are busing them out”
has become one of the most controversial statements of the campaign, but according to pundits, perhaps one of the most politically potent, constituting a decisive factor in his last-minute surge to a largely unexpected victory.
Netanyahu has been widely excoriated by many, in Israel and abroad, for his words, which his critics claim, were laced with racist overtones.
In a panel discussion in which I took part in London over the weekend, one of my co-panelists remarked that it was unfortunate that he was trying to dissuade the Arabs from voting.
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. As I responded, Netanyahu was not trying to discourage the Arab population from voting but to encourage the Jewish population to vote.
Indeed, in the same post, rather than call for curtailing rights of Arabs to vote, he urged his supporters to exercise their right to vote:
“Get out to vote, bring your friends and family, vote Likud in order to close the gap between us and Labor.”
Political proclivities, not ethnic identity
Only the malicious, the mendacious or the moronic could claim that there were any racist overtones to Netanyahu’s exhortation. Such attitudes betray woeful ignorance or willful disregard for the realities of Israeli politics.
It was not that Netanyahu is dismissive of the Arab sector. Quite the opposite, it is the Arab sector that is dismissive of Netanyahu.
After all, is there any critic of Netanyahu who believes that if there was any chance of widespread support from Israeli Arabs, Netanyahu would urge them not to vote for him because of their racial origins? If there is any indication of racially driven considerations in sectoral voting patterns, it is in the massive anti-Jewish bias of the Arab electorate, reflected in its decisive anti-Zionist preference at the polls.
Voting patterns of Israeli Arabs differ sharply from those of the overall population and consistently show overwhelming support for parties that advocate the negation of Israel’s existence as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
Thus despite the fact that almost 55% of Israeli-Arabs declare that they would prefer to live in Israel than in any other country, they voted almost monolithically, as an ethnically delineated bloc, for a list that rejects – unreservedly and utterly – the right of Jews to national sovereignty.
Naked enmity for Jewish political independence
Inspection of the official election results published by the Central Elections Committee show that in 10 of the major Arab cities/ towns, spread across the country, from North to South (Kafr Kana, Sakhnin, Nazareth, Umm el-Fahm, Ara, Jaljulya, Kalansua, Taibe, Tira, Rahat) show a remarkable and disturbing, albeit not unexpected, uniformity.
In these towns, the Joint List – an alliance of four anti-Zionist parties that united for the purposes of this election to contend with the higher threshold recently introduced for representation in the Knesset – won an average 95% of the valid ballots cast.
Significantly, this support does not seem to have been diminished in towns with sizable Christian minorities such as Nazareth, where despite a Christian minority of 30% the Joint List won almost 93% of the vote. In Sakhnin, also with a sizable Christian community, the vote was over 96%.
It is indicative of the extent of the tolerance (indeed, permissiveness) of Israel’s democracy that Joint List candidates include vehemently anti-Israeli individuals, who have openly endorsed terrorism against Israel, advised terrorist leader Yasser Arafat, openly visited enemy countries and participated in activities at home and abroad that incite against the Jewish state.
Moreover, components of the Joint List are reportedly funded by Qatar, one of the foremost funders of Islamic terrorism.
The political DNA the Joint List is so rabidly opposed to the Jewish state that it refused to sign a surplus vote sharing agreement even with the far-left Meretz party, because it was still a “Zionist” faction, vividly underscoring its obdurate repudiation of the right of Jews to a state of their own, repudiation which it seems Israeli Arabs endorsed – almost to a man… and fully enfranchised woman.
The real racism?
The underlying sentiment of Israeli Arabs toward their Jewish fellow-citizens is regrettably revealed by the opinion polls.
Solid majorities indicate that overall, Israeli Arabs consider the Jews foreign intruders in the region and their national independence movement, Zionism, as a “colonialist racist movement.”
The poll cited in the introductory excerpts, by Prof. Sami Smooha, under the auspices of the University of Haifa and the Israel Democracy Institute, all of whom are decidedly on the Left of the political spectrum in Israel, indicates that not only more than 80% of Israeli Arabs blame the Jews for the Nakba “catastrophe” of 1948, when the fledgling Jewish state repulsed a concerted Arab attack aimed at its annihilation. Indeed, it found that almost half of Israeli Arabs have participated in Nakba commemoration events to mourn the victory of the country of their citizenship over the countries of their ethnic affiliation, and its survival, against all odds, of the Arab effort to destroy it – merely because it was non-Arab.
Ironically, it was Chaim Herzog, former president of Israel, and father of Isaac “Buji” Herzog, current head of the Zionist Union, who when serving as ambassador to the UN in 1975 had to deal with the notorious Soviet-sponsored Resolution 3379 equating Zionism with racism. “Ironically,” because Herzog Jr. has joined the hypocritical chorus, excoriating Netanyahu for urging voters not to let those who oppose Jewish political independence triumph at the polls.
After all, it was Herzog Sr. who, from the UN podium, delivered a stirring and memorable defense of the Jewish state and its right to sovereignty:
“To question the Jewish people’s right to national existence and freedom is… to deny to the Jewish people the right accorded to every other people on this globe…”
Surely to attempt to deny the Jews the “right accorded to every other people on this globe” is the real racism. Not the attempt to thwart such denial – however inelegant that attempt might be.
Exceptions are not the rule
To be sure I believe there are many Israeli Arabs who feel a genuine sense of identification with the Jewish state, the Jewish people and its quest to extricate itself from its long history of persecution and pogrom.
Many have served with distinction in the IDF and police force. Many paid with life and limb for their dedication. Often Israel has been remiss in expressing its appreciation for their sacrifice. But this is far more bureaucratic bungling than an expression of any perception of racial or ethnic superiority of Jews toward non-Jews.
Indeed, this year under a Netanyahu government, Lucy Aharish, who has interviewed me cordially on several occasions on TV, will be the first Arab woman to light a symbolic Independence Day torch on Mount Herzl.
But these and other exceptions, like the intrepid teenager Muhammad Zoabi, who dared express his enthusiastic endorsement of Zionism and Israel as a Jewish state, do not make the rule. The rule is reflected far more in the harsh and hostile response Zoabi encountered from his Arab neighbors and relatives for exercising his freedom of speech supporting Jewish independence.
Anti-Zionism is antisemitism
For a state of belligerency, declared and undeclared, prevails between Israel and the Arabs. The overwhelming majority of Israeli Arabs appears to be to identify, at least passively, with the Arab cause. Their voting patterns seem to suggest they have not accepted the finality of Jewish sovereignty.
I began with Abba Eban. Allow me to conclude with him:
“… There is no difference whatever between antisemitism and the denial of Israel’s statehood. Classical antisemitism denies the equal right of Jews as citizens within society. Anti-Zionism denies the equal rights of the Jewish people to its lawful sovereignty within the community of nations. The common principle in the two cases is discrimination.” –
The New York Times, 1975
Alerting the public to this has nothing to do with Arab ethnicity per se. Only with Arab enmity toward the Jews.
As such, it requires no apology.