Former Knesset speaker to ‘Post’: Nationalism most dangerous kind of politics in Israel

Avraham Burg plans to expand Hadash party into something "broader and more comprehensive."

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January 8, 2015 02:32
3 minute read.
Avraham Burg

Avraham Burg. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Hadash is the “only party fully committed to Jewish-Arab equality,” former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on Wednesday.

“I voted for Hadash over the last few election campaigns and I have been writing about it, my views are out there,” said former Labor MK Burg, who joined the Arab-Jewish party on Saturday.

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“The nationalistic discourse in the Israeli sphere has cornered the other parties into the same nationalistic discourse,” he said. “Nationalism here is the most dangerous kind of politics that needs to be replaced with a civic one.”

The “core principle of the Israel system should be the equality of all of its citizens,” he argued.

Asked if civic equality is not already part of the state, Burg dismissed the notion.

“I don’t buy it,” Israel is not fully democratic or equal, but gives more privileges to Jews, he said. Israel should strive to model itself on the democratic systems of the US and the EU, Burg said.

Within this kind of civic government, every community can express itself as it likes, but “the state itself should be indifferent to ethnicity and should be equal for all.”

Asked about his plans for the Hadash party, Burg said he plans “to expand it into something wider and more comprehensive.”

In an interview with the Post on Tuesday, Balad MK Haneen Zoabi criticized the former Labor lawmaker for “preaching to the Arabs” about what they should do. He should respect their decision to run as a united list in the March 17 general election.

The parties – United Arab List- Ta’al, Hadash and Balad – have been unable to close a deal to run together, much less agree on who would head the grouping in the election.

The Knesset’s decision to raise the electoral threshold to 3.25 percent of the total vote to win seats in the legislature has forced the parties to try to band together.

Burg’s views on unity reflect what has been said about Hadash – that it is unenthusiastic about uniting with the Islamic Movement (the United Arab List is the party of the movement’s southern branch) or Balad, an Arab nationalist party.

Burg asserts that he sees no reason to unite with the “uber-nationalist” Zoabi, as she is just trying to impose her views on others.

“I did not leave the Jewish nationalist Zionist camp in order to join an Arab nationalist or religious one,” he exclaimed, referring to Zoabi’s Balad party and the Islamic Movement. “I want to build an alternative which is a civic one rather than anything else.

“Many Palestinians are not uber-nationalist and don’t want to isolate themselves,” but seek to build a bridge between Arab identity and the state, Burg said.

On the discussions about uniting the Arab parties and the Arab-Jewish Hadash, Burg said there is a “kind of hype toward forming a united list.”

The potential partners are “not in love with the others, but they don’t want to be blamed” if unity efforts fail, he said.

Polls show that the Arab public is overwhelmingly in favor of a united bloc in the general election.

Burg said it would be “a coalition out of negative motivation rather than positive,” and for that reason, even if an agreement is reached, it will not last for long.

Asked about the controversy over his appearance at the Hadash conference last Shabbat while wearing a kippa, Burg responded that such matters should be private.

“Only in a country like Israel is the personal life in the public domain. Argue with my arguments, not my personality,” he said.


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