Holiday atmosphere as Arabs turn out to vote in municipal elections

Many families in sector press their members to vote for their favored candidates and crowds congregate in streets.

Kafr Kasim family 370 (photo credit: Ariel Ben Solomon)
Kafr Kasim family 370
(photo credit: Ariel Ben Solomon)
Municipal elections in Israeli Arab locales are the main event, as opposed to national elections, which draw a much lower turnout. The atmosphere in the Arab towns and villages yesterday was festive; families pressed their kin to come out and vote for their favorite candidates, and people congregated in the streets and outside of the voting stations.
The Jerusalem Post spoke to Ghada Zoabi, founder and CEO of the Israeli Arab news portal, about the elections. She said that turnout was average in the north for the most part, but low in Nazareth at around 70 percent. Also in Haifa, the Arab sectors had a low turnout, and her website was contacted to call Arab residents there to get out and vote.
In the Israeli-Arab Muslim city of Kafr Kasim, located on a hill east of Tel Aviv just inside the Green Line, there was a sense of excitement on the streets, with food stands selling their wares to passersby.
At one polling station, many people congregated outside and within the building with what seemed to be a security guard wearing a red shirt, controlling each door.
Inside the voting room, there were quite a few people and a lot of commotion just outside the door as people slipped in and out.
Adel Badir, one of three candidates for mayor, told thePost that his family was among the city’s most influential, along with six others: Sarsour, Issa, Taha, Amr, Frej and Beduin.
The eligible voters in each family are known and used during coalition negotiations prior to elections. One man, speaking with the Post, estimated that the Badir family had around 1,600 voters; Issa, 2,600; Sarsour, 1,600; and Amr, 1,200. The Beduin family’s support was small, he said.
He added that the Arab Spring had no effect on Israeli Arabs in Israel, but that regardless of what is going on in the region, the youth are definitely calling for change.
“Today the youth vote for who they want, but in my generation, the father would dictate how the children should vote,” he said. Another man said that some children who respect their parents still ask their advice, but not to the extent that it used to be.
Besides Badir, the other candidates are Mayor Nadir Sarsour and Sami Issa.
The Post spoke to many people on the street, and despite the competition between families, it seemed that after the elections they would all remain friends.
One man said that his mother hailed from the Badir family, and his father from the Issa family. He chose to vote for Badir because he felt he was the better candidate.
On the eastern edge of the city, immediately next to the Green Line, there are a number of car garages, industrial buildings and stores for construction materials. The Post spoke to the workers at “Garage Deeb,” named after the father of some of the members of the Badir family.
All of the workers there belonged to that family as well and said they were confident that Badir would win.
They were encouraged by the support demonstrated on the street, they said.
Asked what other factors might lead them to be optimistic, they said that the Islamic Movement, which is very strong in Kafr Kasim, supports Badir and that the family in general is part of the movement.
In 50-60 percent of the mosques, the Imam was voicing support for Badir, one worker said, adding that not all of the mosques are controlled by the Islamic Movement and that the Issa family, for example, has a mosque of its own.
The Badir family boasts that it has many intellectuals, lawyers, and city leaders in its ranks. They even have a star soccer player who plays for Hapoel Tel Aviv: Walid Badir.
Badir and his brother Masad are both lawyers; Masad teaches in Ramat Gan.
An important factor, according to some Badir family members, is that an agreement had been made made within a council of elders from the Badir and Sarsour families to support Badir in the election.
Because the current mayor had decided to run again, notwithstanding the agreement, many in his family will not support him.
In Tira, according to Mohamed Samara, a chemical engineer and football coach who spoke with the Post, the elections are very close there between two candidates: Muhammad Mansur and Maamon Abd-Alhi. A third candidate, Abd alSalam Kashua, is running behind.
In that town, the Kassem, Mansour and Abd-Alhi families are the most prominent.
Kashua is a popular man involved in running a charity organization, though he is at a disadvantage because he comes from a small family, according to Samara.
“The elections are very complicated in Tira and it is difficult to predict what will happen,” he said.