Photo: Reuters
Netanyahu. Categorizing the Arab citizens as enemies, not as citizens with equal rights
Photo: Reuters
Photo: Avi Chai and Yogev Atias
MK Ahmad Tibi
Photo: Avi Chai and Yogev Atias

Netanyahu must apologize for anti-Arab comments

Op-ed: Even if the prime minister was elected democratically, his statement against Arabs exercising their right to vote is undemocratic, and he is unworthy of serving as prime minister.

The strength of democratic regimes is tested by a high voter turnout among all citizens, including minority groups. Participating in the elections is a basic right of every citizen. It's an important part of the pact between the citizen and the state.



So when a prime minister, at a moment of sincerity but pressure, turns to the Jewish public, and mainly to the right-wing public, and warns that "Arab voters are moving in droves to the polling stations" – as if he were talking about an onrush of enemies on the borders – he is basically categorizing the Arab citizens as enemies and not as citizens with equal or partial rights.


The Or Commission's report (on the clashes between Israel's security forces and Israeli Arab citizens in October 2000) stated that the police treated and treat Arab protestors as enemies. But this time, it was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who treated Arab voters that way.


On the last week of the election campaign, he revealed an organized doctrine: The first statement was his promise that a Palestinian state would not be established during his next term, as opposed to his previous sweet talk at the Bar-Ilan Speech and with US President Barack Obama. The second statement denies our right to vote on Election Day.


This is a dark, condescending, racist world view. It must not even be said by Knesset Members Danny Danon and Miri Regev, but suddenly it is being said by the prime minister of Israel, as if he were a right-wing activist in the back benches of the Likud faction.


Joint Arab List Chairman Aiman Uda votes in 2015 elections. Is Israel a democracy for Jews only?
Joint Arab List Chairman Aiman Uda votes in 2015 elections. Is Israel a democracy for Jews only?


Throughout history, people have died for the right to elect or be elected. It happened in South Africa, in the United States and in other places in the world. Leaders, especially of countries claiming to be democratic, have encouraged citizens to participate in the elections. Despite ideological differences of opinion among the Arab society in Israel, we, the representatives of the Joint Arab List, have always encouraged the public to participate, vote and make an impact.


Netanyahu's statement is a slap in the face – first of all of in the face of the values of democracy which he himself boasts to the world's leaders, and secondly, in the face of many Arab and Jewish citizens, who are willing to fight together to change reality on the basis of equality and a full civil partnership, despite their differences of opinion.


The representatives of the Joint Arab List were invited to meet with President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday. I am certain that the president's outlook completely contradicts Netanyahu's outlook, although it comes from the same political home. I am hoping that President Rivlin will make a statement that the entire public in Israel – both Jewish and Arab – will hear, and I especially hope that Netanyahu will hear and internalize it.


We will present Netanyahu's comments everywhere in order to prove what we have always said: That the Israeli democracy is an ethnic democracy, a democracy for Jews only in a state which leads three types of regimes: (1) Democracy for Jews, (2) discrimination and exclusion of 20% of the population – the Arab citizens, (3) a regime of occupation and apartheid in the territories occupied in 1967.


One line separates between the lack of infrastructures, the lack of equality in all areas of life, employment, roads, land allotment, education and budgets, which the prime minister is responsible for before anyone else, and his outrageous comments about the Arabs rushing to the voting stations. He almost said that the Syrians were on the fences and the Arabs were on the polls, because in his eyes the Arabs are the same Arabs and the sea is the same sea, and in a Jewish state the polling booths must be Jewish.


There is no escape from demanding that Netanyahu apologize and take back what he said. Benjamin Netanyahu, you must apologize. Otherwise, even if the prime minister was elected democratically, his conduct is undemocratic and he is unworthy of serving as prime minister.


I am certain that this opinion is shared by many citizens, Jews and Arabs, who want a shared life and a real democracy – not a democracy of outstanding Jews. We are citizens too and we want to be equal.


Ahmad Tibi is a Knesset member on behalf of the Joint Arab List.


פרסום ראשון: 03.23.15, 09:36
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