Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Israel News

Arabs Vote for Change in Election Derided by Many

In this city of 20,000 just 20 kilometers east of Tel Aviv, red flags of the Hadash party, a left-wing Arab-Jewish list, fluttered on the main road. Posters elsewhere featured Isawi Freij, a local who is No. 5 on the Meretz party list. Other posters showed Ibrahim Sarsur of the United Arab List, another local, who is also a veteran member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.

On the drab, pothole-marked streets of the town, there were also black flags of mourning with the year 1956 written on them, memorializing the 48 civilians who were killed by Israeli border police as they returned from farming their fields after curfew in what became known as the Kafr Qasim massacre on October 29,1956.

Issa Morsi, 40, who owns an electric supplies store, voted on January 22 for the party he always votes for: Hadash. “It is the only party that wants equality and wants the rights of Arabs to be the same as those of Jews,” he said.

The soft-spoken, bearded father of three took strong issue with the view of many Arab citizens who say that there is no point in voting because elections are a Jewish game and will not bring change.

“I want to play this game, too,” he said. “My vote is the same as theirs. The vote is important in order to make a barrier against racist decisions. Every Arab ballot not cast helps the far-right, and this impacts negatively on the Arabs.”

Morsi believes that pervasive anti-Arab racism is the main problem facing Israel’s Arab minority, which makes up one-fifth of the population. “Apply for any job. Submit your résumé,” he said. “As soon as they see you weren’t in the army, you won’t get the job. Schools aren’t the same level as Jewish schools. Compare their budgets.

“Go to the airport. There is not a single time I have gone there and my pants didn’t come down at the orders of security. It’s humiliation.”

Morsi says the goal of the 1956 massacre, in which he lost relatives, was to force Arabs to leave the country. “Today it’s the same goal, but done in other ways by making people’s lives difficult and causing despair. Netanyahu does not want Arabs here.”

By contrast, he said, Yitzhak Rabin, the assassinated prime minister who reached the Oslo Agreement with the Palestinians, was a “man of peace” and “courageous,” he said. “In his days Israel had a future with the Arabs and the Palestinians. This is real strength in my opinion, not Netanyahu’s strength”

Truck driver Maher Budeir said he voted for Meretz, the left-leaning, dovish Zionist party of which he is also a member. Standing outside the stuccoed elementary school that served as a polling station, and holding the hands of his son, Rasmi, 6, and daughter, Lamar, 2, Budeir explained: “Meretz encourages Arabs to participate, and it is the only party talking about peace. It has a program for peace, and it was a driving force behind the Oslo Agreement.”

Budeir views the outgoing Knesset as “the worst Knesset for us ever in all realms.” He cited a law it produced that cuts government funding for any group that commemorates or recognizes the nakba, literally, the catastrophe — a day coinciding with Israel’s independence day that Palestinians mark as a day of mourning for what they view as the loss of homeland that accompanied Israel’s birth.

But the stay-away trend was also apparent. The Forward asked a young woman accompanying her mother to the polls for whom she had voted. She took the journalist’s notebook and wrote: “For us, the elections in Israel are merely a facade of democracy.”

Contact Ben Lynfield at [email protected]

Engage

  • SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

  • UPCOMING EVENT

    SKY & SCULPTURE

    Hybrid: Online and at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

    Oct 2, 2022

    6:30 pm ET · 

    A Sukkah, IMKHA, created by artist Tobi Kahn, for the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan is an installation consisting of 13 interrelated sculpted painted wooden panels, constituting a single work of art. Join for a panel discussion with Rabbi Joanna Samuels, Chief Executive Director of the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan, Talya Zax, Innovation Editor of the Forward, and Tobi Kahn, Artist. Moderated by Mattie Kahn.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.