Municipal elections in Israeli Arab towns

By WISAM CHALEILA
October 28, 2013 21:18

The government turns a blind eye to what is happening in the Arab Israeli communities.

2 minute read.



MK HANEEN ZOABI speaks to reporters

Haneen Zoabi 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Two months ago two candidates (whose names I prefer not to mention) together with their supporters started their mayoral campaign in my neighborhood, and ended up invading my home. All the same, I was determined not to vote for either of them, because I am convinced that this “democracy” is a farce.

For one thing, I have seen how this free-will prank is actualized on the ground: severe social and familial pressure, threats, fights, emotional extortion, and sometimes even shooting.

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I will not mention disgraceful rumors that reached my ears about vote buying and election fraud, the distribution of contracts and promises to secure certain individuals prominent positions, etc.

A large number of free tags, shirts and flags were generously handed out. However, this generosity of spirit vanished the instant recipients refused to festoon their houses with the free paraphernalia. The “traitors” were immediately stigmatized as supporters of the rival, and even subjected to personal violence.

While I abhor this kind of blackmail and did not want to take sides, in a town of 30,000 people you don’t really have a choice; refuse and you will be awarded a “Black Spot” a la Treasure Island. Or in other words, forget about any future city services, law-abiding, tax-paying citizen though you might be.

In another incident, some groups offered to pay a large sum of money if we allowed them to post their slogans on our private building.

SO MUCH for the period prior to the elections. After the elections, it’s a whole other story.

I’ll spare you an in-depth account of the hullabaloo that startled me out of bed at 2:00 a.m. the next morning. Nor will I criticize the fireworks set off next to my bedroom window.

I will not condemn teenagers abusing their horns and holding “celebratory” races up and down my street.

The irony is that we live in a democratic state that embraces and boosts totalitarian systems.

Hence, I believe this democracy is defaced, and thus fruitless.

I will not deny that similar phenomena could be seen in small Jewish Israeli towns, but I doubt if they were quite as systematic.

So what went wrong? Why do Arab Israelis, raised in a democratic country, behave so sordidly? I do not know the answer, or rather have too many answers; one being the State of Israel. Is it possible such a powerful country is not aware of these miscarriages? Is it reasonable that people turning guns on each other go unpunished, or are punished only when it is irrelevant? The extent of power these mayors have acquired thanks to the law that allows them to run forever is frightening.

There is no limit then to what they are capable of.

Because the government turns a blind eye to what is happening in the Arab Israeli communities, the catastrophe will cross the imaginary borders between these and their Jewish counterparts, eventually overwhelming everybody. It is time to wake up, before it is too late.

The author is a PhD student at Haifa University and Leuven University, Belgium.


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