There were further signs that racism has become normalised in Israel after a poll showed that the majority of the people in the country endorsed banning Arab parties from next month’s general election. In stark contrast, the same poll showed that only a minority of Israelis endorsed a similar exclusion of a Jewish party despite it being an ultra-right racist group affiliated with known terrorists.
Some 54 per cent Israelis said that they agreed with the decision of the Israeli Central Elections Committee to invalidate the candidacy of Ra’am-Balad—a joint electoral list of two Arab parties—and a mere 18 per cent said that they opposed it.
In stark contrast, the survey by Yedioth Ahronoth, revealed that only 38 per cent believe the candidacy of Otzma Yehudit’s Michael Ben-Ari – former supporter of supremacist rabbi Meir Kahanist – should be prevented from running. While 28 per cent of the respondents said they did not want the Kahanist’s – denounced by many as a fascist group – to be prevented from running in the election.
Israel’s Central Election Committee – the body which oversees the country’s electoral process and is made up of Knesset Members (MKs) from each political party – announced last week that Ra’am-Balad is to be banned from participating in the upcoming general election on 9 April. The same Committee permitted Jewish Power to contest the election.
The poll conducted this month and described as being representative of a cross-section of Israeli society shows the broad support for the decision. It is also likely to be seen as a further sign of the growing normalisation of racism within Israeli society. Only two days ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted that Israel is home only for the Jewish people, ignoring Arab citizens who make up 20 per cent of its population. The comments were widely condemned as an endorsement of apartheid.
Sympathisers of the Israeli state also joined the condemnation, describing the remarks as an aberration despite the fact that Netanyahu cited the country’s own nationality law to support his claim that Israel is a nation-state for the Jewish people only.
Known as the “Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People,” the bill passed last year is now enshrined in the country’s constitution. Critics say it effectively codifies discrimination against Palestinians through the exclusive recognition of Jewish rights to self-determination in the land of Israel while denying the same right to Palestinians.
Israel’s own President, Reuven Rivlin, attempted to distance himself from Netanyahu’s remarks, but this new poll suggests that racism is not only ingrained in Israeli society, the country’s Basic Laws -which are the closest thing to a constitution – dispel any claim that the Likud leaders remarks are a mere aberration.