Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Arabs are flocking back to the tribe

Salman Masalha ||

The Arabs are flocking back to the tribe

In the Jewish sector many voters didn’t bother to show up at the polling places for the municipal elections. Some commentators have linked the low turnout to the disappearance of the national political parties from the local scene. By way of contrast, the Arab sector flocked en masse to the polling stations in order to cast the right ballots. “A festival of democracy” is how the Hebrew media labeled the high voter turnout in the Arab sector.

But the reality is far from this flattering description. The retreat of the political parties from the local scene is also occurring in the Arab sector. The Arab public’s high voter turnout rates were not an indicator of democracy, since the elections in the Arab sector have always been conducted on a sectarian and clan-tribal basis and the political parties that are active in the Arab street are also constructed, ultimately, on a sectarian-tribal basis.

The Arab parties are all quite similar to one another with respect to social issues and national policy as well as a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The lively voting in the Arab sector did not testify to an entrenchment of the political parties and a flourishing of democracy. On the contrary, the results indicated a retreat by the parties and a return to the warm bosom of the creed and the tribe.

A huge drama played out in Nazareth, where Ali Salam, who resigned from Hadash, succeeded in deposing the party that had controlled the municipality for decades. Hadash, in a state of shock, applied to the court and obtained an order that prevented publication of the final results until the soldiers’ votes were counted. It even appended a list of the Israel Defense Forces soldiers from Nazareth who, the party claimed, had voted at their bases but whose votes were not counted. The “festival” surrounding the affair spread and the highly fraught issue became an arena for wrangling among the political organizations active in the Arab public.

Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi hastened to publish a snide statement about Hadash in which she wrote that “Nazareth will not allow soldiers to determine its future.” Zoabi, who headed the Balad list in the municipal election, was defeated in part because she is a woman. Male dominated Arab and especially Muslim society does not put women in leadership positions. Muslim women have achieved leadership positions only in non-Arab countries such as Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia and Bangladesh.

It is easy enough to expose the Arab parties’ lies. Indeed, the slurs exchanged between Balad and Hadash did not prevent the two parties from collaborating and even running on a single ticket, of a distinctly separatist Christian hue, in one of the villages in the Galilee. Activists of the joint ticket demonstratively made the sign of the cross when they came to solicit votes and in the privacy of homes they even said they wanted to put up a fight against the “Druzation” of the village, which is inhabited by Druze, Christians and Muslims.

The split in Hadash has been exacerbated in recent years by the entrenchment of Balad, and the veteran party (Hadash) has found itself in a battle to hold high the banner of Arab nationalism. The Islamist stream is separatist by definition. The Arab public has turned its back on parties that are competing to raise the banner of nationalism and fight Israelization, and the Arab public is losing whichever way you look at it: It has internalized neither Arabization nor Israelization but rather is going back to tribalism and ethnicity.

Thus, the state of Israel and all its citizens, Jews and Arabs, is in need of a profound Israelization of education, regardless of religion, race and sex. Such an Israelization will bring succor to the ills of the society but it cannot happen without separation of religion from the state and without an end to the occupation and an end to the national conflict in this land.
Published: Opinions-Haaretz, 07.11.2013

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