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Arab League to Israeli Arabs: Vote to stop far-right
By ARIEL BEN SOLOMON
21/01/2013
Cairo-based Arab League warns that right wing extremists want a "Jewish state under banner of Arab threat," Egypt daily reports.
 
The Arab League on Sunday called for Israeli Arabs to vote so that they can stop the establishment of a right-wing government “that will promote racist laws and ethnic cleansing.”

The Cairo-based Arab League said it was following the trends leading up to the Israeli elections, which it claimed show that right-wing extremists “want a Jewish state under the banner of the Arab threat to the Land of Israel,” according to an article in the Egyptian paper Al-Masry al-Youm.

Israeli Arabs make up at least 20 percent of the population of Israel and can be part of a strong opposition in the Knesset, the Arab League added.

Israeli-Arab voter turnout was expected to drop lower than 50%, according to a Ma’ariv report released last week. The community’s voter turnout was around 53.4% in 2009 and was at its lowest point in 2001, when only 18% voted.

“There are factors that are common to all [parts] of the [national] electorate and others that are special to the Arab electorate,” Prof. Hillel Frisch of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University said.

“The movement away from party politics and to personality politics usually brings a decline in voter participation. This is common in democracies everywhere,” he continued.

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“At least half of the Arab electorate is unconcerned about ideology. The Arab parties now campaign in the Arab sector, but if the Zionist parties” had tried, they “could have gotten Arab votes.”

Frisch claimed that the “party machine has weakened” and therefore does not have much of the capabilities needed to penetrate the Arab sector.

“It isn’t that the Arab sector doesn’t want to be courted, but the parties are not courting them,” the Bar-Ilan academic said, adding that in the past, when Arabs voted for Zionist parties, they discovered that they “didn’t give them anything in return, no political benefits.”

The Arab voters did not see a connection between voting for a Zionist party and gaining anything from it, Frisch argued.

“People are not voting [for Arab parties] because there is very little change in Arab parties, mostly the same people.

People want change. The more market-oriented, the more choice, the better. Part of modern life is having choices.”

The professor added that “the Arab-Israeli websites are full of consumerism while the Arab parties are old and have the same faces.”

Despite these predictions of low voter turnout, the Arab parties and Hadash – a party that targets both Jewish and Arab communities – are making a full effort to turn out the vote.

MK Ahmed Tibi, the head of the United Arab List-Ta’al party, told The Jerusalem Post that party representatives were going “from neighborhood to neighborhood, and that I am personally calling people, and spreading a campaign video on YouTube and Facebook” that calls on Israeli Arabs to vote.

Tibi said that he planned to be in Taiba on Monday at the party’s campaign headquarters doing his “last visits and calls” and meeting with activists for Election Day, “which is the day that counts.”

In an interview with the Post, Hadash MK Dov Henin said that he was telling people “on the Left and Arabs that not voting is a vote for [Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor] Liberman.”

Henin did agree that there would likely be a downturn in Arab voting. He added that his party’s activists were working very hard, going door-todoor over the past two weeks, but said that he was unsure how much success that would bring on Election Day.

The Hadash MK said that his party’s tactic was not to argue with other parties but rather to speak directly to the voters themselves, and added that he was running a nationwide campaign targeting “Arabs and left-wing Jews.”

“On the Left, there is a lot of competition, but that is good,” he stated.

According to Henin, part of the reason that there may be a low Arab turnout is that the big parties “present themselves against the Arabs; they feel rejected by mainstream parties.

[The decision by] people that don’t want to vote is not logical, but is base their decision on feelings.”

Responding to a question about the difference between the ideology of Hadash and Meretz, he said, “Hadash is a Jewish and Arab party and Meretz is Jewish. And Hadash is socialist and Meretz is a liberal economic party.”

“We want Hadash to get stronger” and prevent another government led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu “taking us to dangerous places,” Henin said before expressing hope for some kind of coalition on the Left that would be able to form an alternative government.

“We are telling the central parties not to join a right-wing government,” he said.

Heba Yazbak, a candidate on the Balad party’s list, told the Post, “I don’t think that the turnout this time will be different from the last one; about 50% of the Arabs should vote.”

“In my opinion, this is one of the policies of the state toward Arabs, in removing their interest in politics by pursuing a policy of impoverishment and marginalization and apathy,” Yazbak continued, although she went on to add, “But I’m an optimist and hope that the numbers will be larger this time.”

Yazbak said that Balad has been working for about a month-and-a-half on getting out the vote.

“We have had hundreds of meetings with people to explain our political project and also to encourage them to come out to vote. Also, we had a huge media campaign and all the time we talked about the importance of voting and worked to raise awareness,” she said.

“We used every possible tool: social media, especially Facebook; meetings; radio; and TV.”
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