Stories

No Democracy without a Minority

21 January 2009 By New Israel Fund

Veteran NIF grantee Adalah: Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel appealed to Israel’s High Court to vacate the decision of the Central Election Committee to disqualify two Arab parties from running for next month's Knesset elections.

Last week the Committee disqualified the National Democratic Assembly (BALAD) and Ra'am Ta'al Arab parties, claiming that they do not recognize Israel as a Jewish State. In submitting their petition, Adalah attorneys Orna Cohen and Hassan Jabarin said, "This is not a demand against the Jews, but rather, a demand for joint citizenship with the Jews."  

 

NIF together with flagship grantee Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and some 40 social change organization placed an ad in Haaretz last week protesting the disqualification of Arab parties from the Knesset elections. The ad said, "There is no Israel without democracy and no democracy without a minority."


In a special NIF Newsletter distributed in Hebrew in the closing days of the Gaza conflict, NIF Israel Executive Director Eliezer Yaari commented:

"These battles in Gaza were a difficult test for Israeli democracy. The right to demonstrate was harmed as well as the possibility of hearing alternative voices to the consensus broadcast by the Israeli media. This extremism is natural during a time of war, as is the dividing into camps, but those who want to preserve Israel as a pluralistic, democratic and open society with a diversity of opinions must allow voices to be heard during a time when the fight against Hamas takes on a new level of incitement against Israel’s Arab minority.

The most recent outstanding example is the decision by the Central Elections Committee to disqualify the BALAD and Ra’am Ta’al Arab parties from participating in the coming elections. This decision is an outspoken attempt by politicians to gain votes from those who are entrenched in their closed world outlook.

The right to vote and to be voted for is an elementary expression of civic participation for every person. The decision to negate is tantamount to negating the citizenship of Israel's Arabs and thus intensifies the discrimination against them and the hostility and incitement against them.

Most likely, the Supreme Court will overturn the scandalous Central Elections Committee decision. The relief that we will feel if that happens will only be temporary because the underlying anger, separation and discrimination will not have been resolved. But particularly now, after the war, we are obliged to strengthen those voices trying to build a joint and just coexistence. NIF will continue its efforts in this direction, even during these times when hatred is on the rise and the economic situation is shrouded in uncertainty.” 

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