The need for a united Arab list

If such a joint list is established, it could be a model for a divided and torn Arab region.

Elections in Israel (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
Elections in Israel
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
THE CALLS for Arab unity and the establishment of a single list to represent the Arab voice in the Knesset are not new.
Such initiatives have surfaced before in virtually all election campaigns in Israel, led by public figures not identified with any particular political party.
In the past these efforts failed to bear fruit. The ideological differences among the three main streams in Israeli Arab politics – the Communist, nationalist and Islamist – and the bitter personal acrimony among the leading political players proved insurmountable.
This time, however, because of the challenges the Arab parties face, especially the raising of the electoral threshold and a body of right-wing legislation designed to undermine the civil status of Arabs in Israel, the establishment of a single joint list has become a political imperative. Ideally, it would include the Islamist Ra’am, the secular nationalist Ta’al, Mada and Balad and the Arab-Jewish Hadash Communist party.
The moment early elections were announced last December, public pressure for the establishment of a joint list gathered momentum. The traditional and social media were inundated with calls to expedite the move. There were warnings and even threats that if the parties failed to unite around a joint list, they could find themselves facing a mass Arab election boycott.
The initial result was the establishment of a “reconciliation committee” made up of eight non-affiliated public figures, charged with the task of accelerating contacts between the parties and helping to mediate on the points of difference.
After hearing the ideas and demands of the various party representatives, the committee began work on a foundation document that could serve as the ideological and organizational basis for the joint list.
At its heart are a number of basic assumptions and principles, the most important of which are: • The establishment of the joint list meets the demands and aspirations of the vast majority of the Arab public in Israel.
• The joint list is in no way intended to abolish the unique ideological character of each of the various parties or to undermine the principle of ideological pluralism essential for the existence of any democratic society. It is meant simply as a framework for joint action based on the common denominators that unite the various streams – in other words, the creation of an essential working platform to deal with the burning issues facing Arab society in Israel, especially by taking joint action to entrench the civil status of Arab citizens and standing united in opposition to discriminatory laws that undermine the civil rights of the Arab community, a collective which constitutes around 20 percent of the Israeli population.
• The joint list will work to build bridges of cooperation with all forces in the majority Jewish population, which respect Arab aspirations to full citizenship, unqualified equality before the law and fair distribution of national resources and development budgets.
If such a joint list is established, it will mark a historical turning point, both with regard to internal Arab politics and the political life of the country as a whole.
It could also be a model for a divided and torn Arab region, a model in which different ideological streams work together in a single framework, cooperating for the general good.
If the unification efforts bear fruit, the list will be widely representative of different social strata and political hues.
It will include young people, women, different ethnic and geographic groups, as well as a Jewish representative from Hadash.
The list is in the throes of very difficult birth pangs. But given the determination of the people involved, the newborn is set to go out into the world very soon. A lot will then depend on the conditions under which it is born, its chances of survival and the quality and purpose of the life it leads. 
Prof. Mustafa Kabha, head of the Department of History, Philosophy and Judaic Studies at in the Open University, has written extensively on Palestinian and Israeli Arab issues