Israeli Arabs Gripped by Election Apathy

Palestinian Parties Blamed as Much as Far Right for Lethargy

Arab Apathy: It’s election season in Israel. But many Arabs see little reason to vote, despite the prospect of an even more right-wing government.
getty images
Arab Apathy: It’s election season in Israel. But many Arabs see little reason to vote, despite the prospect of an even more right-wing government.

By Ben Lynfield

Published January 13, 2013, issue of January 18, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

“To whom are you leaving the country?” entreats one poster for Balad, an Arab party, showing a photo of Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party. The party has proposed stripping Arabs of their voting rights if they refuse to pledge loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state.

But the pitch seems to be falling on deaf ears. Members of the country’s Arab minority are poised to stay home in record numbers in the country’s January 22 parliamentary election, according to recent polls. The phenomenon, if borne out in the election, would signal growing alienation among the one-fifth of the citizenry that is Arab. Analysts say it would also help perpetuate right-wing rule. Some critics of the trend say it raises tough questions about how democratic Israel is.

“‘People are in despair,” said Yusuf Khawish, a former high school psychology teacher in this town east of Hadera in northern Israel. “Their psychological situation doesn’t encourage voting. Who votes? Only he who thinks he can benefit.”

In a packed local shawarma shop where Quranic verses adorn the wall, Rami Sawaied, a 27-year-old lawyer, dismissed the election’s significance for himself and other Arabs as he munched on a sandwich during his lunch break.

“I am not going to vote. I don’t think that if I voted it would change anything,” he said.

Like many potential voters interviewed by the Forward in Arab areas of northern Israel, Sawaied perceives national politics as an Israeli Jewish game in which Arabs cannot be real players. They blame entrenched discriminatory attitudes. “This is a Jewish country, and they don’t give the Arab people a chance to live,” Sawaied said.

Another diner, Samir Auweisat, 34, said he would vote but did not believe it would make a difference. ‘’We can’t change the situation, because all the government is Jews,” said Auweisat, an Arabian horse trainer. “They won’t have [Arabs] in the [government] coalition.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.