Imagine that on a United States election day the candidate for the presidency urges the white citizens of the country to get out and vote so as to outnumber the African American voters who are flocking to the polling station. It is almost a certainty that such a statement would result in the downfall of this candidate and the disgrace of his or her party.
In Israel on the other hand, Benjamin Netanyahu, who was campaigning for the Prime Minister position for the fourth time, decided that the best tool to urge the majority of the citizens of Israel to vote is by threatening them with the influx of the “Arab” voters. The statement by Prime Minister is disturbing both because of the racism itself, and also because of the fact that such a statement proved to be an effective tool, seen by many analysts as the reason for the sweeping victory of his Likud party.
In the allegedly only democratic state in the Middle East, the Palestinian citizens of the State of Israel were considered a threat because they were exercising one of the fundamental rights in a democracy and that is “The Right to Vote.” The Palestinian minority of the State of Israel who constitute around 20% of the entire population are seen from the Prime Minister’s perspective as an imminent threat to the existence of the State of Israel, and are thus put in the same threat category as ISIS and Iran.
Ever since the establishment of the State of Israel, the rights of citizenship of the Palestinian population have been minimal. Their rights as a cultural minority were never respected or acknowledged, and their political and civil rights have been severely restricted. Their inequality has been institutionalized in the State’s establishments through privileging the Jewish citizens over the Palestinians. They have been distrusted at every turn.
The results of the 2015 are the direct outcome of the racist political culture that has been brewing in Israel for the last couple of decades. The subtle discrimination against the Palestinian citizens became a public contest between most of the Jewish Israeli parties running in the election. The coalition between Livni and Herzog resulted in the birth of the Zionist party, which has insisted on many occasions that it would not include the Arab party in a government coalition. In a televised pre-election debate between the running parties, and in response to Odeh’s (the head of the Palestinian joint parties) statement that the Palestinians in Israel constitute 20% of the total population, Lieberman, the Israeli Foreign Minister, declared “for now” referring to his population transfer proposal which recommended transferring the Palestinian populated areas to the Palestinian Authority. Additionally, Lieberman suggested that Odeh go and run for election in the Gaza Strip. Lieberman expects the Palestinian minority to accept his right to leave Russia and come and live in Israel, while he refuses to respect the rights of those Palestinians to live un-harassed in their ancestral home.
Throughout the debate and during the election campaign, Odeh, reiterated the goal of the Joint list is to fight for equal rights. He also proposed a new Israel where democratic values to “All” citizens are appreciated and respected; few of the Israeli majority entertained the idea.
The election results have confirmed that the left in Israel is disappearing and has highlighted the fact that the Israeli majority is swaying between an extreme right and a centrist right. This as a result provides a bleak horizon for the Palestinian minority of Israel.
I conclude with Tocqueville’s warnings of the “Tyranny of the Majority” as it bleakly resonates the case of Israel today:
Under the absolute government of one man, despotism tried to reach the soul by striking crudely at the body… Tyranny in democratic republics does not proceed in the same way, however. It ignores the body and goes straight for the soul. The master no longer says: You will think as I do or die. He says: You are free not to think as I do. You may keep your life, your property, and everything else. But from this day forth you shall be as a stranger among us. You will retain your civic privileges, but they will be of no use to you. For if you seek the votes of your fellow citizens, they will withhold them, and if you seek only their esteem, they will feign to refuse even that. You will remain among men, but you will forfeit your rights to humanity. When you approach your fellow creatures, they will shun you as one who is impure. And even those who believe in your innocence will abandon you, lest they, too, be shunned in turn. Go in peace, I will not take your life, but the life I leave you with is worse than death.” (Democracy in America)