Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Answering Bibi and Libi

The answer to Netanyahu and Lieberman needs to come in the establishment of a social democratic front of the Israeli left. The ball is sitting in the court of the two Israeli parties Meretz and Hadash.

Salman Masalha || 

Answering Bibi and Libi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Bibi and Libi for short, have joined together for the following mission: They have agreed between them, so it has been reported, to raise the electoral threshold for entering the next Knesset to 3.25 percent of the overall vote. The supporters of this move claim it is related to the question of governance, which Israel has been considering for a long time. But it is clear that this claim is not true. In everything related to proper government, the size of the parties in Israel is not what matters.

The populism of Knesset members from right-wing parties is what governs at the top, and at the top is a kippa, with all that comes with it. This is particularly noticeable in the party of the prime minister, who serves on behalf of the Likud. Former prime minister Ariel Sharon went through a similar experience and suffered for it in the Likud central committee. He ran into this same right wing, filled with religious and nationalist populism, until he was forced to abandon ship and form a new party.

In recent years we have become witnesses to the breaking of the barrier of shame in Israeli public debate. All the racists have kicked in the doors, which had somehow still concealed the abominations, and they broke out in song and dance to spread their moldy wares. Israeli society - including all its component parts, Jews and Arabs as one - is a sick society that needs to be hospitalized and treated urgently.

In the parties called Arab parties, they came out vehemently against raising the electoral threshold. They claimed it was intended to prevent them from sending representatives to the Knesset. The vote threshold, according to MK Dov Khenin (Hadash), is intended “to prevent the entry to the Knesset of parties whose support comes from the Arab population.” Khenin also said that this population is composed of a broad public, which includes socialists, Islamists, nationalists and those who support coexistence, and “there is no single common denominator that will allow them to run together.”

The Knesset member from Hadash forgot one thing: the party he belongs to finds support across the Arab population that he describes. This is, after all, the inclusive front of the Islamists, nationalists, supporters of coexistence and socialists. Evidence for this is the thousands of votes of so-called socialists that went to his party in the Knesset election, then disappeared in the municipal contests.

Moreover, in Israel they repeat the oxymoronic mantra “Jewish and democratic,” but this is all Israel needs in the arena of international public opinion - that it will have a purely Jewish Knesset without any representatives from the 20 percent of the citizenry who are Arab. Since its establishment, the nation’s leaders have known that Arab representatives in the Knesset serve Israeli propaganda. Only a fool would think Israel will give up this propaganda asset.

We should praise the raising of the electoral threshold since it may yet bring prove beneficial to the country’s civic health: The move creates a rare opportunity to establish a new Israeli front, a true social democratic front, with all that implies. This front needs to base itself on partnership between Jews and Arabs, as the good of all Israeli society, without distinctions of religion, race or gender, is their true goal.

The answer to Bibi and Libi therefore needs to come in the establishment of a social democratic front of the Israeli left. The ball is sitting in the court of the two Israeli parties Meretz and Hadash. They must rise above Zionism on the one hand and above Arab nationalism on the other. Neither Zionism nor Arab nationalism are hanging in the balance, but rather the establishment of a just Israel from an economic, social and political standpoint - and for all its citizens.

Such a front must be led by the opposition, Jewish and Arab as one, against the right wing. It must lead the struggle against the occupation and aspire to be an alternative to the ruling government and present a vision of sane life in Israel after the solution of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Such a vision must include the partnership of Arab cabinet ministers. Without such a vision, we will slog on in the religious, nationalist and racist swamp.
Published: Opinions-Haaretz, 7.1.2014

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