The Blog

Arab-Jewish Unity: An Innovative Direction for Israeli Politics

In just under eleven days, the world will once again tentatively gaze towards the State of Israel, some with optimism and others with harsh skepticism. As elections to the 19th Knesset edge ever closer, we need to be mindful of what the new Knesset could potentially shape up like.

In just under eleven days, the world will once again tentatively gaze towards the State of Israel, some with optimism and others with harsh skepticism. As elections to the 19th Knesset edge ever closer, we need to be mindful of what the new Knesset could potentially shape up like.

2012 מצעד זכויות האדם (Human Rights march in Tel Aviv 2012) photo: Galit Lub

The Israeli Knesset has 120 seats, so a ruling coalition must have at least 61 members. Latest results from polls reveal a shift to a further right wing government is on the cards with the parties that make up the 'Right-Orthodox Bloc' predicted to hold a minimum of 63 (max 67) seats whilst the 'Centre-Left Bloc' shall possibly hold 53 seats.

(For all those poll addicts out there, you can find an aggregation of all the latest public Israeli election polls featured in this one-stop resource courtesy of blogger and reporter Tal Schneider.)

Of course Israeli politics, far more complex than many first believe, cannot be judged by what we in Britain regard as left and right. We remain at the mercy of analysts and reports from various political experts as they translate in simple terms what we desperately seek to understand about Israel's political system and makeup. Not every problem in Israel necessarily relates to the Israel - Palestine conflict, though it should be noted that very few parties hold policies or practices of any substance when it comes to peace building.

Looking at the situation from an outside perspective, I have for some time now been hoping for a liberal, non-sectarian and cross-community alternative in Israeli politics. My wait for something fascinating, innovative, authentic and hopeful that can revive the Israeli left-wing may now finally be over.

Unfortunately thus far I have witnessed only the sectarian divides, commonplace in political discourse throughout the wider world, take on more serious connotations in Israel. The problem is of course only compounded by the Israel - Palestine conflict and until just recently, when the Knesset's Central Elections Committee forbade media outlets from referring to Hadash, Balad and Ra'am-Ta'al as "Arab parties" in their polling results, racism had been an acceptable method of disenfranchising Palestinians, both those with Israeli citizenship and all those in the occupied Palestinian territories who are living de-facto under Israeli administration.

Additionally the fact that no Israeli government in 65 years ever included one of the Arab parties in the coalition, and there has only been one Arab minister in history should enlighten us to the disingenuous claim that Israeli Arabs have equal say in Israel's farcical democracy.

Enter Asma Agbaria Zahalka - a Palestinian citizen of Israel from Jaffa - that Israeli newspaper Haaretz has labelled as a new hope for Israel's left. Her message is such a simple one, but for 2013 Israel, it is both revolutionary on one hand and moderate enough to be accepted on the other. Such a message as this, you don't hear coming from any politicians in Israel today whether Arab or Jewish, certainly not in such an assertive, unabashed, matter-of-fact-manner as what I have seen from Asma. And as for the argument that there are no politicians out there with any charisma, that can out-charm, or out-talk Netanyahu, I think he may have met his match.

The need for cooperation between Palestinian Arabs and Jews is by far the greatest, most important challenge facing Israel. Every element of Israeli life - from the education system to zoning plans - is constructed to promote a level of ethnic separation, with politics being just the tip of the iceberg.

But despite the fantasies of Israel's right wing, both populations continue to live here, side by side and will remain like this for many years to come.

In any deeply divided society, the ability to create joint structures and partnerships is one of the single most important yet challenging elements that can determine the chances of survival for both communities. Equality between people and a change in society can only help to improve the quality of life for every citizen, building a shared future together.

Displaying just how important this new left-wing political movement is and the potential it has to change minds I wanted to highlight a recent blog post entitled 'Finally, an Israeli politician demanding Arab-Jewish unity' the author of which, Israeli blogger Mairav Zonszein stated:

"I'm still not sure if I will end up voting, as it feels to me in principal like conceding to Israel's farcical democracy and a direct affront to all the disenfranchised Palestinians who live under the same governmental roof. But if I do vote, I know who I will vote for: Da'am, the Arab-Jewish workers' party."

At a time where media misconception continues leading us to dead-ends, where circular rhetoric takes us away from a human rights focused discourse, this new and none sectarian alternative for Israel - Palestine has the exceptional opportunity of developing an entirely new discourse - one where human rights--whether they are for Palestinians, migrant workers, African refugees, or Jews--aren't about taking sides but rather about unity.

Less posturing and more debate on the genuine issues, leading on towards finding viable and sustainable solutions to problems rather than just mundanely highlighting them is what I believe Da'am is all about.

I don't ever really endorse political parties in foreign countries (even though I have my personal preferences), however the video below exhibits a number of principles that simply must be disseminated widely, especially in Israel - Palestine where these ideas, whether or not you agree with the overall platform of the party (which you can read here) need to be taken on-board.

Da'am displays a move away from the sectarian divide and the corrosiveness of opposing nationalism. I truly believe this new political discourse has the ability of getting through the current impasse and may well be an integral component in the renewed effort of resolving the Palestinian - Israeli conflict.

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