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Zohir Andreus
Arab women – not in our party
Must it take a Zionist party to get Arab women in the Knesset?

Women in Israel's Arab society are victims of double discrimination: Israel discriminates against them because they are Arab, and chauvinistic Arab society completes the circle.

 

The Arab Israeli leadership demands equality for Palestinian Arabs living in Israel, yet consciously or unconsciously perpetuates discrimination against the other half: namely, women.

 

No Arab party running for the Knesset saw fit to include an Arab woman in a realistic spot on its election slate. This shows they still view women as votes, nothing more.

 

Equality begins at home

 

The Arab leadership has apparently failed to internalize the fact that equality begins at home. They haven't heard that a woman was recently elected chancellor of Germany.

 

It is also probable that the heads of the Arab parties will pay little attention to the fact that in Chile, too, a woman was chosen to head that Latin American country. This is also the case in Liberia, in Africa.

 

A society that dares to be modern cannot ignore the female element. But since the establishment of Israel, Arab women have never won election to the Knesset representing Arab parties.

 

There are no more than a few women representatives on Arab regional councils. According to the leaders, Arab women are not ready to lead. She will continue to be led.

 

Up to the task?

 

It is even more upsetting that Arab women are not fighting for their rights in society. Aida Toma-Suleiman, a very active feminist activist, said she would run for a spot on Hadash's Knesset list, but when push came to shove – but for many reasons, perhaps for very strange reasons – she decided not to run, thus scoring an own-goal for herself and the community she represents.

 

Hanin Zuabi ran for the third spot on the Balad ticket, but she lost to current Knesset Member Wasil Taha.

 

Could it be there no women amongst Israel's Arab community that are up to the task? The answer is clearly no. This is a society produces strong, intelligent women, but – wonder of wonders – the Arab leadership has turned a blind eye to them.

 

Zionist incursion

 

This absurdity is revealed in all its splendor when we remind ourselves that it took the Meretz Party to break the taboo by placing Hussniya Jabara in the Zionist parliament in 1999.

 

But this precedent made little impression on the Arab leadership, which failed to wake them up to grant this elementary right to women.

 

The problem got even more urgent when Nadia Hilo was elected number 15 on the Labor Party election slate, a realistic spot according to all the polls.

 

How can we explain to ourselves that, once again, it took a Zionist party to grant Arab women equality,

whereas we continue to ignore them?

 

The Arab parties have declared non-entities two elements that threaten them, and they threaten to leave them out of the Knesset altogether: the low voter turnout in the Arab community, and the penetration of Zionist parties into Arab communities.

 

Tough questions

 

So here's the question we've got no answer to: How can we persuade Arab women not to vote for the Labor Party, which has done for Arab women something that no Arab party has done?

 

The Arab parties' failure to include women in realistic spots on their election slates is proof of the inadequacy of these parties and of Arab society in all its components. The time has come to correct this wrongdoing.

 

Zohir Andreus is the editor of the Israeli Arab newspaper Kol el-Arab

 

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