Two hundred Arab students from Kfar Qasim high school attended an election conference last week to get excited about this Monday's Israeli election. Students mock voted at the end: 85% supported the Joint List and 11% supported Blue and White.
The conference included an opening speech from Kfar Qasim Deputy Mayor Ryan Tae and a panel at which representatives from every party running for Israel’s 23rd Knesset were invited. Only four parties sent representatives: Blue and White, Shas, Labor-Gesher-Meretz and the Joint List.
Joint List MK Iman Khatib addressed the students first.
"You are the proud future generation that Arab citizens are building on," he said. "You do not need to thank anyone for eating and drinking and working in your country and your homeland."
Khatib went on to warn that although the Blue and White Party does not support the Nation-State Law, as a party they have offered no alternative solution.
"Blue and White supported the 'Deal of the Century' and prevented the establishment of a subcommittee to eradicate violence and crime in our Knesset. Blue and White says it is for a Jewish state and for equality. Anyone who wants equality must support a country of all its citizens," Khatib said.
Then, the floor was opened up to the students. Muhammad Badir, a 17-year-old student, addressed Blue and White’s representative, MK Ram Ben-Barak.
“Yair Lapid said you want to form a government with the Jewish majority, you don't count us at all. How do you want us to vote for you?” he asked.
Anjaram Amer, an 11th grader, added on to Badir’s sentiment.
"You are two-faced," the student said. "To us you bring messaging about our equality, but to the Jews you say something different – that you will not sit with Arabs."
“What Yair Lapid meant to say but phrased poorly, is that our government will sit with parties that accept Israel as a Jewish state. He did not mean a majority of Jews," Ben-Barak said in response. "Even when we talk about Jewish parties, there are party leaders that we are not prepared to accept. We would not sit with [Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar] Ben-Gvir, although he leads a Jewish party; we are opposed to [Yamina MK Bezalel] Smotrich's vision for the country. We believe in equality, and we have no problem with Arab society, we have a big problem with those who head the parties and say they oppose a Jewish state."
Then, MK Moshe Abutbol, Shas’s representative, spoke up for the first time.
"The state is investing a lot in the Arab sector. It is not enough – but for every success that exists we must say al-hamdilula [thank God]. If there is a hospital manager or a school principal – we must say ‘Wonderful! This is a success of the state. And those who don’t know how to say thank you – always remain stuck in the same situation," he told the audience.
After hearing this, many students were angry. One student even challenged Abutbol, who is the former mayor of the City of Beit Shemsh.
"You are asking us to thank you for everything we receive from the state," the student said. "Tell me: What do we get besides racism?"
Labor-Gesher-Meretz’s representative, MK Emilie Moati, responded to this.
"The contract between state and citizen allows each person the right to demand their needs from the government," Moati explained. "I don't think citizens should thank the government for being able to live a decent life. I don't think anyone is entitled to equality only because he is a doctor or a pharmacist or a lawyer – I think we are all entitled to equality. You don't have to thank anyone. I hope at the end of this tunnel a caring light awaits, and we all have better days."