Beitar Jerusalem’s fans refuse to change

The sign reads "Beitar will always be pure"

The sign reads “Beitar will always be pure” (Reuters)

A version of this piece was published on The Times of Zion on February 6, 2013 under the title “A Self Perpetuating Cycle of Racism“.

Two months ago, I wrote about the rivalry between Beitar Jerusalem and Bnei Sakhnin. In that piece I grappled with the cycle of racism that is perpetuated when Beitar Jerusalem’s management refusal to sign any Arab players placates their most passionately racist fans.

This past Saturday, Beitar’s most racist fans were at it again.

Last week, Beitar Jerusalem signed two new players: Zaur Sadayev and Dzhabrail Kadiyev.  These two men are Chechen Muslims.  Beitar’s owner, Arkady Gaydamak, a Russian born billionaire, recruited them from the Russian Premier League.  For Beitar’s management, the racism of their fans has been difficult to handle.  On one hand, your fans are your customers, and on the other, restricting the potential talent pool harms your team’s performance and the racist reputation takes a toll.

I would sympathize more with the management, but these efforts to bring in players of ethnic or religious minorities are too few and far between. Furthermore, Beitar’s manager, Eli Cohen, told YNet, “There is a difference and it makes a difference between an Arab Muslim and a European Muslim.” It is a twisted sort of racist logic that leads to an absurd hierarchy of acceptability for races and religions. The idea that distinguishing between these two groups should placate the fans only amplifies the fundamental problems with endemic racism in the Beitar Jerusalem organization.

The last time Beitar Jerusalem signed a Muslim player was in 2005.  Nigerian-born defender Ibrahim Nadallah could not finish an entire season on the Beitar roster.  He found the constant stream of racism, prejudice, and incitement intolerable.

The outburst after signing one Muslim was intolerable, so a similar response was expected following the acquisition of two Muslim players. In a response to last week’s signing, Beitar’s fans showed up to Teddy’s Field on Saturday for their game against Bnei Yehuda ready to protest. The signs that Beitar’s fans brought to the game were not emblazoned with supportive slogans or even relevant ones. They chose to display their displeasure with the team’s management rather than support the players on the pitch.  One particularly large poster read, “Beitar will always be pure”.

Three of Beitar’s fans were arrested for their actions in the stands. Those arrests were the only tangible consequences for the aggressively racist behavior.  The Israel Football Association has made no move to pass judgment on Beitar for its fans’ behavior.

Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon said on Sunday, “I was shocked by the racism displayed in the Beitar Jerusalem stands yesterday against having Muslim or Arab players on the team.”  But should he be shocked?  Is this even shocking?

The government of which Yaalon is a member passed a spate of discriminatory legislation targeted at the Arab minority.  It is a fairly intuitive reaction to see a causal relationship between legislation banning the commemoration of the Nakba or removing 70,000 Bedouin Arabs from their homes in the Naqab and the increasing public racism directed at the oppressed minority. In the past few months alone, Arab citizens have been physically assaulted in the streets of Jerusalem, had their holiday decorations vandalized, have been subject to racial profiling on Tel Aviv’s beaches, and have been refused entry into Haifa nightclubs.

The relationship between the government’s actions and the choices of Jewish Israelis is intertwined and competitive. They fuel each other on to greater achievements in hate while reinforcing each other with, on one side, votes and, on the other, a lack of adequate punishment.  The cycle will not stop until politicians like Moshe Yaalon act on their statements. If you are so shocked by the racism displayed in Teddy’s Field, maybe it’s time to curb the racism in the political arena.

Some of you may respond by citing the recent election results and the ostensible victory of “centrist” Yair Lapid.  Unfortunately, Lapid has a similar perspective on the role of the Palestinian minority in Israeli society as his predecessors.  He was quoted recently stating that he would never join a coalition with the “Zoabiz”. He invoked Haneen Zoabi’s name to associate all the Arab parties with her reputation as “the most hated woman in Israel”.

Ami Kaufman grappled with this comparison in +972 Magazine. He quotes a friend, “Is there really a difference between a politician who doesn’t want Arabs on his team, to fans who don’t want Muslims on theirs?” This particular comparison has grown quite popular in the media coverage of the Beitar game.  It’s a positive sign that these two outrageous acts are provoking the media and political elite, but there are no signs that serious consequences will be brought in either case.  Lapid is still going to have his choice of Finance of Foreign ministry in Netanyahu’s new government, and the Israel Football Association (IFA) continues to prescribe palliative punishments.

Yesterday, Tuesday the 29th, the IFA held a hearing for Beitar Jerusalem.  They fined the organization NIS 50,000 for their fans’ behavior at Saturday’s match.  However, fans were still allowed to attend Tuesday night’s game between Beitar and Maccabi Umm al-Fahem. Banning fans from the stadium has been a punishment deployed by the IFA in the past for similar infractions.

Is there any hope to break the cycle? Beitar Jerusalem is currently ranked fourth in the Israeli Premier League and may qualify for competition in Europe. In a metonymical twist, the international attention brought on to Israel’s most racist football club may help pressure Israeli policy makers to protect the rights of the Palestinian minority. But, it may not even be noticed.

Also, if you’re curious, Beitar lost Saturday’s game. The score was 1-0.  That isn’t justice, but it is nice.

15 Israeli and Palestinian organisations warn of far-reaching consequences of Israel’s for obstructions of UN human rights mechanisms

15 Israeli and Palestinian human rights organisations today warned of the far-reaching consequences of Israel’s refusal to fully cooperate with the United Nations (UN). On the morning of Israel’s second Universal Periodic Review (UPR), scheduled for Tuesday 29 January, it remains unclear whether it intends to participate.

This lack of transparency will not only mean that Israel avoids rigorous criticism of its violations of international law, but that the entire UPR system will be undermined by the loss of its two fundamental principles: equality and universality.

In May 2012, Israel formally announced its decision to “suspend its contact with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Human Rights Council (the Council) and its subsequent mechanisms”.

Israel reportedly met with the Council President His Excellency Remigiusz A. Henczel in January 2013 and discussed a postponement of its UPR. However, as no formal request has yet been made, the Council agreed to proceed as scheduled and to consider on the day what steps to take if the Israeli delegation does not attend.

These exceptional circumstances have created uncertainty and forced some civil society organisations to revise or limit their engagement with the review process due to the risk of investing necessarily significant resources into a process that may not take place. Thus, a key component of the UPR process – civil society engagement – has been severely hampered.

Through this uncertainty, Israel and the Council are setting a dangerous precedent on the international stage, one that could be followed by other States refusing to engage with the UN in order to avoid critical appraisals. Israel’s decision to disengage from core mechanisms of the United Nations human rights system has, in effect, resulted in preferential treatment. All but one of the 193 UN Member States have attended their UPR as scheduled; in that single instance the State of Haiti was unable to attend due to the humanitarian crisis caused by the 2010 earthquake. Israel should not receive any benefits or concessions for its efforts to   undermine the system of the UN and, in particular, its human rights system.

To the contrary, the Council should ensure the unobstructed process of Israel’s UPR in accordance with the principles and standards set in the UPR mechanism, thereby reasserting the condition that human rights are more important than political or diplomatic considerations.

Moreover, Israel’s move to suspend cooperation with the Council and the OHCHR must be viewed within the context of its ongoing refusal to respect the decisions, resolutions and mechanisms of the UN. Consecutive Israeli governments have refused to recognise the State’s obligations under international human rights law with regard to the Palestinian population of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), obligations repeatedly reaffirmed in statements by UN treaty bodies.

Israel also rejects the de jure applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention, incumbent upon it as the Occupying Power, in defiance of numerous UN resolutions, the 2004 International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the oPt, and countless statements issued by governments worldwide.

In 2009, Israel declined to cooperate with the UN Fact-finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, headed by Justice Richard Goldstone. Justice Goldstone repeatedly called on Israel to engage, to no avail. More recently, in 2012, the UN Fact-finding Mission on Israeli Settlements in the oPt was denied entry into the territory to collect testimonies. The Mission joined a long list of UN Special Rapporteurs and the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, to whom Israel has also refused entry. Furthermore, since his appointment as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Mr. Richard Falk has not been allowed to enter the oPt to carry out his work.

Within this context, 15 human rights organisations call on the Council to take a firm stand consistent with the seriousness of Israel’s obstructive actions to date.

NGO List

Israeli government approves massive new evictions in the Naqab

Nazareth – Late last night, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government approved the Prawer Plan Law. This law was passed by the Knesset in 2011 and it legitimizes the displacement, dispossession, and eviction of tens of thousands of Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel, while not recognizing their right of ownership of their ancestral land.

The Prawer Plan is presented as a “development plan” for the “improvement of living conditions” for all citizens of the Naqab, but with the mass expulsion of the Bedouin Palestinian citizens at the heart of the proposal.  This approval paves the way for the next Knesset to implement it components, which stipulate the seizure of more than 800,000 dunams of land (about 200,000 acres).  The plan will recognize around 30 unrecognized Bedouin villages, affording the residents the legal right to ownership of their homes, with a land area of around 48,000 dunams (about 12,000 acres), while the rest of their ancestral territory is confiscated.

In effect, the execution of this plan is extortion. The Bedouin are forced to acquiesce in order to win legal ownership over their homes, but in doing so they give up their rights to their land.  Furthermore, the Plan entails a five-year period for the Bedouin to accept the meager compensation or lose their rights to everything. This is basically a warning from the government.  They will begin demolishing all but the recognized villages to make way for the development of Jewish settlements in the Naqab in the next five years and if the Bedouin protest, they will lose what small area they have.

The Prawer Plan was designed and approved without any consultation with the Bedouin indigenous to the Naqab. The head of the Council of Unrecognized Villages responded yesterday, “We want the conditions improved. We don’t accept the outlined proposal. We’re all for regulating the unrecognized villages, but only in cooperation and coordination with the people living in them.”

This most recent decision is disappointing, but not unexpected.  The Prawer Plan has already justified the destruction of many homes in the Naqab.  However, Sunday’s decision marks a significant step forward in the spread of destruction.

The timing of this decision is also suspect.  It comes in the weeks leading up to the formation of a new government (the American equivalent is a president’s lame duck period), but also the day after the High Court of Justice ruled in defense of the Prawer Plan.  It will be difficult for advocacy groups to hold the new government that will form in a few weeks accountable for this abuse committed by its predecessor.

The Arab Association for Human Rights calls on the government to overturn this decision and to uphold the rights of the Bedouin Arabs of the Naqab to their land and their homes. Furthermore, the HRA would like to denounce the clandestine manner in which the ruling was processed.

Mohammad Zeidan, general director of the HRA, responded to the decision, “The Bedouin Arabs have a right to live in the lands they own and should not fear encroachment from Jewish settlements.  It is not right to force an exchange of land for a promise not to destroy homes.  The Bedouin land that is confiscated should not be a viewed merely as potential zone of development; this is the source of the Bedouin lifestyle and their livelihood. It destroys their indigenous way of life and forces them to integrate into a society that does not respect their traditions.  To force this exchange on the Bedouin of the Naqab is to deny them their human rights.”

 

The Israeli Elections in Nazareth: a Beginner’s Guide

IMG_0629

Israel has caught election fever.  Last October, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that he was rescheduling the next national elections for January 22, 2013.  Since that day, parties from across the political spectrum have jockeyed for position in the public’s favor.

Recent polls confirm what many Israelis have known for years.  The religious right is gaining influence.  In fact, the single biggest story of this election has become the meteoric rise of settler-hero and conservative icon Naftali Bennett.  He advocates the annexation of areas in the West Bank and he favored a ground invasion of Gaza during Operation Pillar of Cloud. Netanyahu and the new Likud Beitenu party he formed with Avigdor Lieberman are still projected to win handily.  However, Bennett has pledged to join a Netanyahu-led coalition after the election, so each percentage point he climbs in the polls wins him more influence in the future ruling coalition.

As in all aspects of public life, the veering Israeli political discourse has very little presence in Nazareth, the capital for Arabs in Israel. Palestinian Arabs would never vote for Naftali Bennett’s Habayit HaYehudi party (“The Israeli House”).  He comes from an ideological school similar to Meir Kahane, the radical rabbi whose most famous scion, Baruch Goldstein, famously murdered 29 Palestinians in Hebron in 1994. Needless to say, Bennett’s rise does not mean an end to the increasing flow of discriminatory legislation, which has further abused the rights of Palestinians in the last few years. The democratic process functions, but Palestinian citizens have such extreme positions (relative to the mainstream discourse) they have been pushed from political viability.

Naftali Bennett gives a speech at a campaign event.  A recent profile in the New Yorker described Bennett as "the face of the next generation of Religious Nationalism"

Naftali Bennett gives a speech at a campaign event. A recent profile in the New Yorker described Bennett as “the face of the next generation of Religious Nationalism”

Winners and losers are chosen by Jewish Israelis, but in Nazareth the elections are still a big event. With all that in mind, what do national Israeli elections look and feel like in Israel’s largest Arab city?

First things first, how do Israeli elections even work?

When an Israeli citizen walks into her voting station on Election Day, she will see a ballot with a list of parties on it, not names.  That is because Israel has a proportional representative system.  Each party chooses a “list” of candidates that best represent their collective beliefs and people vote for a list.

Traditionally, lists are comprised of candidates from a single party, but in the past multiple parties have submitted joint lists.  This is the case with current Likud Beitenu list.  Netanyahu’s Likud and Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu agreed to run on a joint list for this election. Citizens vote by list and the amount of seats a party wins is based on their list’s percentage of the vote.  Parties like Shas, Likud Beitenu, and Yesh Atid are projected to win a large percentage of the vote, so they publicly campaign with long lists of candidates.  For example, Likud Beitenu is polling at 28.8%, which would earn them 34.5 seats in the Knesset.  That alone is not enough for a ruling majority.  After the election, there will be a period of negotiations that will form a ruling coalition.  So, despite Netanyahu’s party only capturing 34 out of 120 total seats, he will be able to organize a coalition of right wing parties and run the Knesset with over 70 members of the Knesset (MKs) behind him.

For the Palestinian minority, the minimum requirements are a more relevant function of the proportional representation system.  You see, there are many more political parties in Israel than those currently holding seats in the Knesset.  These are parties that win less than 2% of the popular vote. There are three Arab parties with seats in the current Knesset: The United Arab List (Raam-Ta’al), The National Democratic Assembly (Balad), and The Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash). Each of these three promotes non-Zionist views and purports to serve the needs of the Palestinian minority.  Ta’al and Balad are purely Arab lists where Hadash is an Arab-Jewish communist party.  In the current Knesset, the United Arab List has three seats, Balad has three, and Hadash has four.  So, when the Arab parties campaign, they have much shorter lists than Likud-Beitenu.  Hadash, for example, has seven faces depicted on their campaign posters.

I thought 20% of Israel’s citizens were Palestinian, why aren’t Arab parties winning more seats?

It’s true, there are 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, yet their favored parties only win ~9% of the Knesset’s seats.  The numbers don’t add up.  American readers may be quick to explain away the dissonance with apathy. The real reason why there are not more Arab Knesset Members is the Arab boycott.

The history of Palestinian citizens’ voting trends mirrors the history of the Arab/Israeli conflict.  In the beginning – from the war in 1948 to the war in 1967 – Palestinian citizens lived under martial law. There was a separate court system for them, curfews were in effect, and travel permits were a necessity.  Even under those strict rules, the early secular Zionists awarded many Palestinians living in Israel citizenship. The peak voter turnout for the Palestinian minority was 1955 when 90% of Arabs voted.  From 1955 to 1981 there was a gradual increase in Palestinian voting, then a gradual increase from 1981 through 2001.

The percentage of Palestinian citizens of Israel who vote in Israeli elections over the Israel's history

The percentage of Palestinian citizens of Israel who vote in Israeli elections over the Israel’s history

In the early 1990s, the Arab parties played a critical part in supporting Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s diplomatic efforts that led to the Oslo Accords.  Then in 2000 the Second Intifada broke out in the Occupied Territories and Palestinians in Israel rose up in solidarity.  Israeli security forces reacted with violence and 12 Palestinian citizens were killed in the protests.  As a result of this harsh antagonism, the Palestinians organized a mass boycott of the 2001 elections.  Since then the inequality in rights enjoyed by Palestinian and Jewish citizens has only grown and the amount of Palestinians who choose to boycott has grown with it.  This coming election is projected to have fewer than 50% of Palestinian citizens vote.

Why not vote? 

There are four categories that most justifications for boycotting fall into.

  1. Indifference towards Israeli politics
    1. Palestinian citizens have had more than 60 years of experience being ignored by the political mainstream.  There is a common sentiment that it just doesn’t matter any more.
  2. Self awareness of political insignificance
    1. These first two points are inextricably linked.  Apathy is bred from marginalization.  The marginalization of the Palestinian minority is ingrained in the fabric of Israel, due to its institutional definition as a Jewish and Democratic state.
  3. Disappointment with Arab leadership
    1. This is the reason most often cited by mainstream Israeli politicians.  They claim that Arab MKs have given up on the day-to-day struggles of the Palestinian citizens in favor of the larger struggle for Palestinian nationalism
  4. Protest
    1. Since the massive boycott in 2001, this faction has grown larger and larger.  In the months leading up to the election, Nazareth has hosted multiple high profile public events in which the merits of boycotting as a protest were weighed in a formal debate.  This is a telling sign.  The most important debate leading up to the elections for Palestinians in Israel was not between candidates, but between boycotters and voters.

Local civil society leader and general director of the Arab Association for Human Rights, Mohammad Zeidan, is boycotting the election.  He describes his position; “65 years of participation was more than sufficient for people to realize that their participation has no impact on their status.  In fact, it was used by Israeli to show that it is a democracy in which the minority has the rights to be represented.  The participation was used against the goal of equality in Israel.” Mohammad directed me to this video of PM Netanyahu addressing the US Congress.  In it he describes how Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and uses the equality of the Palestinian minority to defend his statement.

Mohammad went on to analyze how the boycott is perceived, “boycott is becoming more legitimate as a political expression, rather than just not showing up.” The Saturday before the elections on the 22nd, there was an organized protest drive through various Arab cities in the Galilee.  This event and others like it are attempts to make boycott a public act of protest.

This past Sunday, the Arab League published a formal call on Arab citizens of Israel to participate in the elections. The request was motivated by a fear of the rising influence of far-right parties, but many among its target audience fail to see a persuasive reason to listen. Susan Barhoum, a Nazarene Christian, still plans to boycott. “My vote will not stop the discriminatory legislation.  It doesn’t matter.”

So if Palestinian citizens do choose to vote, who do they vote for?

Even though more and more Palestinian citizens are choosing to boycott, voting is still a popular option.  Fahim Dahoud is an Arab and a lawyer living in Nazareth Illit.  He is planning on voting this Tuesday.  “I want to change something.  First of all, I think it is my duty as a citizen.  If all Arab Palestinians vote, we can change the map.”  He went on to describe a precarious electoral balance, “The difference between the right and the left is five votes.  If 70% of Arabs vote, we can change the balance.”

There are three major non-Zionist political parties.  By that I mean these parties advocate a restructuring of the Israeli government from one based on Zionist principles to one prioritizing democracy and equality for all citizens.  These parties are the Islamist-leaning Raam-Ta’al, nationalist Balad, and communist Hadash.

IMG_0625

On the left in white, a poster for Raam-Taal. In the center in orange, Balad. On the right in red, Hadash

Ta’al was formed in the mid-1990s by Ahmed Tibi.  Tibi is currently the head of the party and its most outspoken member.  He was a vital and ubiquitous critic of Operation Pillar of Cloud as well as a target for Zionist enmity due to his relationship with Yasir Arafat.  In the 2009 elections Ta’al was running as a part of the United Arab List, but were disqualified from participation by the Central Election Commission.  Tibi took the decision to the Supreme Court where it was overturned.  He is on record stating, “This is a racist country. We are accustomed to these types of struggles and we will win.” This coming election will see Tibi’s Ta’al once again leading the United Arab List.

Haneen Zoabi is second from the right on this Balad poster

Haneen Zoabi is second from the right on this Balad poster. The character inside the white box is the Arabic letter that will show up next to the party’s name on official ballots.

Nazarenes call the party more commonly known as Balad by its Arabic name al-Tajamu.  Balad is a party more focused on Palestinian nationalism and advocates for a bi-national Israel in which only the principles of democracy guide government.  It was also formed in the mid-1990s and is currently led by Jamal Zahalka.  However, Balad has been in the news lately more for the case of Haneen Zoabi. Ms. Zoabi, a Nazareth native, is the first Palestinian woman to ever be elected to the Knesset. Two weeks ago the Supreme Court overturned the CEC’s decision to ban her from the elections.  Zoabi has become a symbol of sorts for the Palestinian minority after she was demonized by the Jewish Israeli public for her participation in the Mavi Marmara flotilla in 2009.  In response to the CEC’s decision to eliminate her from participating in the election, Dr. Jamal Zahalka declared “This [move] hurts the entire Arab public. Its purpose is to weaken the political power of the Arab citizens in the Knesset and to strengthen the Israeli right. We fully support MK Zoabi and all her actions, and we emphasize again that if the Supreme Court does not reverse the decision, Balad will not take part in the coming elections.”

The disqualification of Haneen Zoabi was not the only legal speed bump that Balad had to hurdle in this race.  The week before the election, every party is allotted seven minutes of airtime on each of the three main channels to broadcast campaign advertisements.  These are opportunities to share a party message or just to familiarize the public with new candidates. Balad produced an ad featuring cartoon versions of right wing politicians singing the national anthem “Hatikva” to the tune of an Arab pop song.  The CEC banned this ad and the ad from Michael Ben-Ari’s Strong Israel party that aired with the slogan “not an Arab country, and not a country of infiltrators.” The ruling was overturned after ACRI filed an official appeal on the grounds of free speech.  If anything, the litigation controversy increased the reach of these two divisive ads.

In probably the most interesting political tactic seen in Nazareth this election season, Balad has been using the following advertisements to sway Arab voters who plan to boycott:

The poster reads: ‘Who are you leaving the [Knesset] to?’ and the pictures on the right depict three virulently right wing and racist MKs

The poster reads: ‘Who are you leaving the [Knesset] to?’ and the pictures on the right depict three virulently right wing and racist MKs

The third and final Arab party that is projected to win seats in the Knesset this election is Hadash.  This is a communist party that advocated for Jewish and Arab coexistence.  Their local branch, al-Jabha, is popular in Nazareth municipal politics and they are expected to do well here.  This is the party that was co-founded by Tawfiq Ziad, the Palestinian citizens of Israel who earned fame for his “poetry of protest” and for organizing the first Land Day protests in 1976.  Their party platform includes policy goals such as “achieving a just peace to the Palestinian/Israel conflict”, “protecting workers’ rights”, “eradicating weapons of mass destruction”, and “equality between the sexes”.

Hadash has been criticized for a lack of women at the top of their list.

Hadash has been criticized for a lack of women at the top of their list.

These three parties have joined together to run Facebook campaigns and events in opposition of the boycott. A new Arab party is taking a different approach.  The Hope for Change Party has promised to focus only on domestic issues and has pledged to join any ruling coalition.  They are not projected to win any seats in the Knesset. In a last minute reaction to poor polling data, the Hope for Change Party has pulled out of the election.

One of the few Hope For Change posters to be found around Nazareth.

One of the few Hope For Change posters to be found around Nazareth.

What about the future? 

Those three parties are fairly well established in Nazareth and their roots run deep.  So, this election will not be a revolutionary or game changing opportunity for a new face to make an impression.  Unfortunately, the Palestinian minority faces an increasingly hostile opposition in the Knesset.  Constant threats to ban Arab parties from participating, racist incitement from other MKs, and a deluge of discriminatory legislation all increase the antagonism and apathy felt by Palestinian citizens.  That combined with the divisions within the minority and the constant refusal of Zionist parties to invite Arab parties into their coalitions all contribute to the seemingly implacable status quo and the stagnant struggle for political rights.  The question is, if change won’t come this election, what are the prospects for the future?  In other words, what do young people living in Nazareth think?

Shadi Saleh Mari turned 18 this year.  He was born and raised in Mashhad, a village near Nazareth, and is already an accomplished actor.  He describes a divided youth, “The parties have summer camps for kids.  I went to the tajamu camp when I was younger.  We sang the party songs and made friends.  Now teenagers use more energy on the elections than on policies.  My friends and I went to see mayor Ramiz Jeraisy give a speech on breast cancer awareness.  Mayor Jeraisy is Jabha and my friends are Tajamu.  Before Ramiz even started to speak, my friends were already heckling him. They didn’t care what he had to say because he was from a different party.” The strong relationships and communities that have developed around the different parties reflect the natural internal divisions within the minority and cripple the dream of an impactful unified Arab list.  For this, and other reasons, Shadi is choosing to boycott the election.

One young Nazarene, Maroun Maa’lous, has a different perspective.  He is also 18, so this will be his first election too, but he is happy to vote on Tuesday.  Maroun thinks boycotting is useless, “if you don’t vote, you don’t have any influence.  I think the Israeli government is interested in the non-Jewish citizens votes.  A non-vote is like a vote for who you do not like.  The party I vote for has done a lot. I grant them my vote for their good work.  He plans on voting for Hadash on Tuesday. “Hadash is the only Arab-Jewish party in the Knesset and the best chance for peace.” Specifically, Maroun is happy to espouse the virtues of Dov Khenin, a Jew and the third on Hadash’s list.   “Dr. Hanin, he is a fighter.  He fights for Arab minority rights, for immigrants’ rights, for animals, for the environment.”  Hadash has four seats in the current Knesset, but with the growing percentage of boycotting Arabs, that total could fall.  Dov Khenin’s future lies in the balance.

These two young men present a stark contrast.  It would appear that they represent two poles on the political spectrum.  In reality, these two perspectives lie on the extreme left of Israeli politics.  But, this is the way it works in Nazareth.  The Palestinian minority has its own internal politics and Israel has its national politics; this election is poised to drive a wedge further between them.

* * *

For a deeper analysis of some of the trends discussed here, I encourage you to read this piece from local journalist, Jonathan Cook:

http://www.jonathan-cook.net/2013-01-19/palestinian-citizens-wearily-eye-israeli-elections/

A New Way to Support the HRA

Our Friend,

This past year has thrown many obstacles in the way of our collective strive for human rights.  2012 saw the ACAA protocol passed by the European Parliament and the Haifa District Court’s rejection of the Rachel Corrie’s family’s appeals.  These two developments set dangerous precedents domestically and abroad that will threaten future justice-protection mechanisms. In addition, a spate of discriminatory legislation was passed this past year; the Prawer Plan threatens the livelihoods of Arab Bedouin in the Naqab, the Family Unification Law divides Palestinian families, the Anti-Boycott Law violates freedom of speech, the Naqba Law revokes the Palestinian minority’s right to commemorate a national tragedy. Each law like these that is passed further restricts the human rights of Palestinians in Israel in favor of consecrating the superiority of the Jewish majority. The upcoming elections on January 22 are projected to an extremely right-wing government to power. Most serious of all, the outbreak of violence in Gaza in November portends troubling attitudes from Israeli politicians and marks the most recent in the long line of Israeli violations of Palestinians’ human rights.

The HRA is working as hard as ever to protect and promote the rights of the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel.  We published two reports on issues of discrimination, one about home demolitions and the other focusing on the personal tragedies caused by the discriminatory family unification law.  Our human rights forums and youth outreach programs reached over 10,000 Palestinians living in Israel.  We also started a Twitter feed and redesigned our Intern Blog to make is easier for us to connect with supporters from all over the world.

This year we will be starting long-term projects with many esteemed partners in Israel and the Occupied Territories.  In 2013 we project our programs will reach record numbers of participants.  We hope to further expand our social media presence and to find even more ways to spread the word about human rights abuses in Israel. Our efforts can only be successful with the participation and support of people like you.

We are happy to announce that today it is easier than ever to support our work.  All you have to do is go to the Donate Today! section on our website and click the Paypal button.  You can start the New Year off right by supporting our work and joining our effort to promote human rights in Israel.

“You who stand in the doorway, come in,

Drink Arabic coffee with us


And you will sense that you are men like us


You who stand in the doorways of houses


Come out of our morning times,


We shall feel reassured to be


Men like you!”

-Mahmoud Darwish, exerpt from Under Seige

Mohammad Zeidan

General Director

Arab Association for Human Rights