Avigdor Lieberman 248.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Pointing to the existence of political parties that support the idea of transferring Arab Israeli citizens to a Palestinian state, MK Issam Mahoul charged Tuesday that Israeli democracy is in danger and called MK Avigdor Lieberman of Israel Beiteinu a "fascist."
"Lieberman wants to transfer Um al-Fahm citizens of the State of Israel outside of the country. My question is: How does Israeli democracy have a place for such a racist program?" he said. A member of Hadash, a Jewish-Arab political movement with three seats in the last Knesset, Mahoul added that "if [Lieberman] doesn't feel comfortable with the Arab population in Israel and their influence on the state, then he can go back to Russia where he came from."
Mahoul made the comments as a member of a panel speaking at a conference titled "Will the Arab Vote Count in the 2006 Elections?" The conference was held at the Guest House of the St. Andrews Scottish Church in Jerusalem.
The event was sponsored by The Citizens' Accord Forum between Jews & Arabs in Israel, a non-profit organization whose aim is to change the way the media relates to Arab society in Israel and encourage increased participation of Arab journalists within the Hebrew media.
The biggest challenge facing Arab parties is to get their sector to vote, according to recent polls, but conference panelists said their second most important challenge is to get Arabs to vote for Arab parties and not for those dominated by Jewish candidates and issues.
"The more Jews who vote, the more it will hurt the Arabs in the election," said Dr. Elie Rekhess, a senior research fellow at the Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University and director of the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab cooperation. He added that Arab voters would have to vote in large numbers if they wanted to have any influence in their state. This is even more important with the threshold to enter the Knesset increased from 1.5 percent to 2%.
"Now the ruling parties are trying to get back the Arab vote, so there is a confrontation between them and the Arab parties," said Mahoul, who is also a member of Israel's Communist Party.
He said the problem was not the Arab voter but racism and Israeli democracy.
"The real problem of these elections is a racist problem. We did not immigrate here. And we will not move from here. The State of Israel was imposed upon us in a series of historical events. We accepted this fact. But we will not accept the legitimacy of the discussion of transfer every time a fascist wants a headline in a newspaper."
Claiming that Israel's democracy was in danger, Mahoul said, "I suggest to you not to take it for granted. It should be questioned daily."
Arab voters were frustrated with the lack of influence of the Arab parties which are marginalized and never invited to join coalitions, said the panelists.
Abir Kopty, another panelist, expressed disappointment that the Arab parties did not slot a woman in a realistic place, while the Labor Party did. "Nadia Hilu is a member of a Zionist party and I speak for myself and many other women: She does not represent us [because] she belongs to a party that ignores the Arab citizens and she will be obligated to vote against Arab interests," said Kopty, a spokeswoman for Mossawa, the Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens of Israel.
Nevertheless, said Kopty, Hilu's realistic slot "now challenges the Arab parties to do the same in the future."