The outgoing Israeli government has stepped up the racism inherent in the system and is on the verge of passing distinctly apartheid laws. The law relating to so-called “admissions committees” could not even have been passed in the smallest European country against their weakest minorities, or, indeed, against Jews anywhere. Israel has passed eight discriminatory parliamentary laws, representing a six-fold increase in the rate of such laws going on to the statute book; 32 were approved in Israel’s first 59 years of existence, but eight have been passed in the past three and a half years alone, let alone the development of draft laws that link citizenship to allegiance to the “Jewish” state.
In addition to this, a political rule was developed legitimising the prosecution of “rogue” lecturers and Jewish associations who question state policies. Likewise, the Judaisation of Jerusalem and seizure of Palestinian land, including private land belonging to the Palestinian people, has become more aggressive. Moreover, Israel’s conviction that the rest of the world will eventually accept what it is doing, even if this goes against some Western interests, has become rooted in the country’s psyche. In a classic case of the tail wagging the dog, this is because what ultimately drives the international diplomatic agenda is Israel’s satisfaction with the West, not the other way around.
The Israeli public’s response to such policies was the re-election of the government. Those who chose the right-wing chose to continue with these policies. Those who chose the centre chose agendas that do not conflict with these policies; they did not say no to racism, no to settlements, no to the Jewish state, and no to considering the Palestinians guests in their own land, despite their citizenship.
Nor did those who chose the centre say yes to peace, yes to human rights, yes to democracy, yes to the rights of the Palestinians on their land. Whoever chose the centre chose to ignore those issues and turn their faces away completely, far from the political struggle with the Palestinians on both sides of the so-called Green Line. Those who chose Tzipi Livni chose agendas relating to the United States; agendas that avoid direct clashes with the US and the religious extremists. As for those who chose Shelli Yachimovich, also from a centre party, they chose economic agendas and economic policies benefiting the middle class.
Those who chose Lapid’s new Yesh Atid Party chose a flower from every field; an agenda that clashes with the religious extremists but with a less aggressive economic policy. It did not forget to add an argument applied by everyone, but voiced only by the right-wing: no to Haneen Zoubi, a euphemism for no to the Arabs. The largest party after Likud did not forget to remind the Arabs that it does not accept them at all, just as the right-wing does not accept them. Lapid, as did Yachimovich before him, feared that his party would be classified wrongly as the most tolerant and democratic toward the Arabs. However, we must show that his fears were unfounded.
In order to understand that the principles of the centre parties do not suggest an ideological clash with the right-wing, just with their tactics (mainly, at this stage, relations with the US and expressing hatred vocally towards the Arabs), we must remember who established Israel’s political centre. Step forward Ariel Sharon, the hand behind the Sabra and Shatila massacres of Palestinian refugees in 1982. He did not break away from Likud to establish Kadima due to political convictions which gave more recognition to the rights of the Palestinians; he did so in order to impose schemes relating to conflict management which were not approved by Likud.
The response of the Arab citizens to Israel’s racist policies was to increase the strength of the Tajamu Party, which saw its share of the vote rise in terms of numbers and quality. Although we live in a time when a vote cast out of political conviction is equal to a vote paid for through blackmail, intimidation or threat, such votes are really worthless in the struggle against the racist regime.
The Tajamu Party has increased in strength and unity, while the Communist Party, which opposed unity, was punished by its target group and lost despite the thousands of votes it received by coercion. More importantly, the increase in the strength of Tajamu is the only increase that represents a political response based on a clear national project.
The election process is not over yet and the government is unlikely to be stable. Tajamu will now have a prime national responsibility to stabilise the national movement, deepen its roots, expand its ranks and develop its campaigning capabilities. It will not be built by parties that do not believe in Arab national organisation, nor by religious parties that exclude sections of our people, nor by attention-seekers, nor by boycotts that not only spurn parliamentary representation but also the entire political sphere and promote sitting at home to be patriotism, leading to a political vacuum.
The Tajamu Party has a clear strategy for the struggle; first and foremost, it has the will to fight and a moral political culture, and there is no patriotism without political integrity. Such things are regarded as a responsibility before they are an advantage.