Arab citizens of Israel – I call on you to exercise your democratic right to vote.
You should not vote because you are anti-Bibi (although you should most definitely be against the former prime minister, who has been inciting against you for years). I am not calling on you to save the Zionist-Left; those parties have failed too many times over too many years to internalize the true essence of equality and democracy and have also failed at ending the occupation.
I am not calling on you to vote because of Itamar Ben-Gvir; his racist ideology is already very deeply rooted within Israeli-Jewish society and politics, and his very existence in politics endangers me as much as you.
I am not going to tell you who to vote for because that is your right to decide for yourself.
You should vote because we, together, in genuine partnership, have the task before us to transform Israel into the state of all of its citizens.
Israel is home to Palestinians too
Even if it seems far away and Jewish supremacy in the State of Israel is embedded deep in the reality and spirit of what Israel has been since its birth, we, Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel, need to work together to change this. Our political partnership is not possible without your political participation.
This is your homeland, and even if the Jewish majority makes you feel that it is not your state, don’t allow them to do that. This is your state and it is your right to demand full equality. It should not be tolerable that the Jewish immigrant who arrived yesterday from Ukraine should have more rights in this country than you, who has been living here for hundreds of years.
You should vote because the issue of equality for all citizens must be advanced by citizen participation.
I am your partner in this struggle and there are others with me. We cannot expect that those who have power will give it away. Power must be taken. Rights must be demanded. In countries where rights are denied to citizens, they are not simply granted out of the goodwill of the state, they are demanded and taken.
We need strong representatives of the Palestinian citizens in the Knesset. We need this to be a better country, a better democracy – to be a democracy, period. This is our home and we are not surrendering to right-wing fanatics of whom some have already spoken about another Nakba. There could be 15-20 Palestinian-Israeli members of Knesset if the entire population of those who had the right to vote exercised that right. A Knesset with 20 Palestinian-Israeli MKs would be a very different Knesset from those we have known until now. Real power and leverage would be in the hands of the Palestinian community of Israel.
I am quite sure that if this were to happen there would be many Jewish Israelis who would call for an all-Jewish government, not allowing a single Palestinian-Israeli representative into the coalition.
But if the entire body of representatives of the Palestinian citizens of Israel was left out of governance, there would be no question marks at all regarding the false statement of Israel being the only democracy in the Middle East. It would be an outstanding opportunity to drive the point home that democracy is not only the rule of the majority, but that the heart of democracy is the protection of the rights of the minorities.
Vote because the statement made by almost all of the Jewish politicians that they will not sit in the same government with representatives of the Palestinian-Israeli political parties is racist and unacceptable and totally undemocratic. Vote and force them to sit in a government with your representatives in a coalition in which you have real impact on what the government will do.
There is much to be done by the state in all of the communities of Palestinian-Israeli citizens of Israel. Discrimination has lasted for too long and the huge gaps in virtually every aspect of public life are far too wide 75 years after Israel’s establishment.
Vote so that not resolving murders of Palestinian citizens is no longer the norm. Vote so that criminals are arrested, illegal weapons are confiscated, protection rackets are terminated and cooperation between these criminals and representatives of the state’s security forces are no longer compliant in cooperating with them.
Vote so that lands that were expropriated from almost every Arab town in Israel in the 1950s can be returned so that young people have a place where they can build a home. Vote so that infrastructure in Palestinian-Israeli towns and cities can be upgraded to the 21st century.
Vote so that Palestinian-Israeli children have the equal budget allocations and educational opportunities as the Jewish children in the nearby towns. Vote so that industrial zones can be developed in Palestinian-Israeli towns and cities and not only in the nearby Jewish cities.
Vote so that Arabic becomes, once again, a formal language in the State of Israel, and so that Jewish students be obligated to learn Arabic just as Palestinian-Israeli students are obligated to learn Hebrew.
Vote so that we can annul the Nation-State Law and pass a Basic Law for Equality of all citizens.
The writer is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to the State of Israel and to peace between Israel and her neighbors. He is now directing The Holy Land Bond.