Analysis: Arab-Israeli MKs of Joint List opting for conflict instead of cooperation

“All I hear and see are comments that serve the narrow political interests of their parties, not the Arab public,” government security official says.

October 14, 2015 06:25
2 minute read.
Osama Saadi, Ahmed Tibi, Ayman Odeh, Masud Ganaim and Haneen Zoabi

Israeli Arab lawmakers from the Joint List (from L to R) Osama Saadi, Ahmed Tibi, Ayman Odeh, Masud Ganaim and Haneen Zoabi stand in front of the Dome of the Rock. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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The Joint List, which spent much energy campaigning in Hebrew during the last election using words such as ‘democracy’ and ‘equality,’ has failed to clearly condemn the surge in terrorism, instead blaming the Israeli government and the “occupation.”

Ayman Odeh, who heads the Arab-Jewish communist Hadash Party and who identifies as secular, has failed to live up to his election campaign rhetoric, in which he frequently quoted Martin Luther King.

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He and his Joint List colleagues have fallen back on the traditional Arab line – echoing the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah – justifying and defending terrorist attacks by blaming it all on Israel.

“We need to extend bridges to the Jewish community,” Odeh told The New York Times in March. “Martin Luther King fought for blacks, and sympathetic whites were with him.”

Today, it is basically certain that almost no Jews stand with Odeh, who sounds increasingly like Balad’s Haneen Zoabi.

The Joint List leader told a faction meeting on Monday, “The uprising and struggle against the occupation is natural and expected.”

While he did say, “We are against any civilian casualties,” he has not specifically come out condemning the recent acts of terrorism. Perhaps he fears losing the support of the Arab street.

A government security official with knowledge of the Arab sector, who did not want to be identified because of his working relationship with Arab leaders, told The Jerusalem Post that the Israeli Arab public deserves leadership that will truly represent their interests, not the interests of the Arabs in the West Bank or Gaza.

Israeli Arabs need leadership that will address their day-to-day needs.

“All I hear and see are comments that serve the narrow political interests of their parties, not the Arab public,” said the official.

Dr. Mordechai Zaken, head of minority affairs in the Public Security Ministry and a former Arab affairs adviser to the Prime Minister’s Office, told the Post in an interview on Tuesday that from his experience, the majority of Israeli Arabs are not interested in this kind of conflict, as it does not serve their interests.

The young age of many of the Palestinian attackers represents an acute generation gap. Additionally, their generation did not experience the intifadas, he said.

They do not respect or listen to the older generation and are often acting on their own, with the facilitation of propaganda from the Internet, explained Zaken.

The incident on Sunday in which Nazareth mayor Ali Salam shouted at Odeh to leave his city and stop incitement reflects part of the Arab public that is scared to speak up, as the mayor did.

He noted that Salam is a bitter rival of Hadash and defeated their candidate to win the mayoralty.

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