Arab MKs blame problems on racism, occupation

Parties say media ignore their work toward making their constituents’ lives better.

January 11, 2013 02:38
4 minute read.
MK Taleb a-Sanaa

Taleb a-Sanaa 370. (photo credit: Knesset)


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MK Taleb a-Sana rejects the argument that Arab discrimination is minimal and that Arab politicians are radicalizing the Israeli Arab public.

MK Ghaleb Majadle calls for Arabs to come out and vote and prevent a “bad right wing government of Feiglins, Danons, Libermans and Elkins.”

Daniel Pipes enters the discussion and says that Israeli Arab leaders are “obsessed with harming Israel – to the point that they neglect their own community’s interests.”

Sana, 52, is currently the longest-serving Arab member of the Knesset, having first entered the legislature in 1992, and has decided to run this time with the Arab Democratic Party alone, and not together with the United Arab List.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, he rejected the arguments made by Prof. Efraim Karsh in a Post article earlier this week that there is minimal discrimination against Israeli Arabs and that their economic situation is good and improving, but it is their leaders that radicalize the community.

Sana said it is not true that he or other Israeli Arab politicians such as MKs Ahmed Tibi and Haneen Zoabi have not dealt with local Arab issues, but only focused on the Palestinian- Israeli conflict. He says that they are dealing with improving the lives of Palestinians, but blames the media for focusing only on the attention-grabbing headlines or on statements from Arab MKs on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Sana says that he has been trying to deal with the issue of the government “making war in the Negev” against the Arabs living there, and “the Israeli media doesn’t pay any attention to it.”

Likewise, they “don’t pay attention to the details of the Israeli-Arab election campaign and only focus on Arab crime, security issues or other negative news. There are 1.5 million Arabs in the country and the media does not pay adequate attention to our issues.”

He goes on to say that “there is no Left in Israel, only a Right, and an extreme Right. The Right succeeds in controlling the media, universities and other institutions.”

Regarding the Naftali Bennett phenomenon and Bayit Yehudi’s rise in the polls, Sana says that it is all about the media, which is aiding him.

“What did he do in his life? Who is this guy?” The solution for now is to increase the Arab voter turnout so that they can acquire more influence on politics in the country.

Majadele, 59, the Arab MK from the Labor Party, was the first Muslim to be appointed minister, in 2007.

He went directly to his message about what Israeli Arabs need to do these elections, “Arabs need to come out and vote on January 22 and prevent a right-wing extremist government from being formed. A bad right-wing government of Feiglins, Danons, Libermans and Elkins.”

It is the Right that “does not care about the poor, social justice and equality,” he added.

Sami al-Ali, the spokesman for the Balad party, headed by MK Jamal Zahalka and which also has Zoabi as a member, agrees with Sana that the Arab MKs are working to improve the lives of Israeli Arabs, and that the media does not focus on this. He also rejects the argument, made by Karsh and others on the Right, that the Arabs are not suffering from significant discrimination.

I told him that they argue that Israeli Arabs tend to live in less-crowded areas and tend to own their homes, which are usually large houses, whereas Jews tend to live in small, rented apartments in crowded areas in the center of the country.

Arabs now have a high standard of living and many are studying in the universities, working in many fields, and have low unemployment rates.

Ali responded, “This is not true. Having a job, food and a house are basic necessities and if you compare Arab villages to Jewish areas in Tel Aviv or Herzliya you see large gaps – big differences.”

Furthermore, “The poverty rate in Arab areas is over 50 percent.”

Ali says that “all Arab MKs care about achieving equality and improving day to day life for Arab citizens.”

He goes on, “It is the Israeli media that focus on other things” and not on the ways that Arab lawmakers are making improvements in the Arab sector.

Regarding the contention that Israeli-Arab politicians such as Zoabi and Tibi are radicalizing their community, Ali says that this is not true and that “Zoabi represents many Arabs, who support her Balad party. The party fights against racism and to end the occupation.

“You can’t have equality in a Jewish, democratic state.”

It is the “‘Jewish’ that makes it” inherently unequal, because it is “always going to favor Jews over others,” he says. Only a solely “democratic state would be equal for everyone, but Jewish plus democratic can’t work.”

Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum, wrote me in regards to this issue, which he called a “paradox” in an article published in The Washington Times and posted on his website,, “Israel’s Arabs, Living a Paradox.”

“Unfortunately, Israeli Arabs vote consistently for representatives obsessed with harming Israel – to the point that they neglect their own community’s interests,” Pipes wrote to me for this article. “Worse, as Efraim Karsh has pointed out, the trend toward rejectionism increases as Israeli Arabs become more prosperous, affluent, and better educated. I believe this to be Israel’s ultimate challenge; after Iran and Gaza have been dealt with, how does it turn its Muslim minority into loyal citizens?” •

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