We know that such a future is possible. One in which every citizen of Israel has a place in society. A future in which Palestinian citizens of Israel can grow up knowing their vote will be counted. We know this because NIF is already building that future.
This is becoming the key issue in upcoming Israeli elections. The unrestrained campaign in Israel’s elections – which includes outright attacks on political participation of Arab citizens of Israel – is an all-out assault on democracy.
What began a decade ago with a campaign of character assassination against the New Israel Fund’s then-president Naomi Chazan, mushroomed into our current crisis. Now, in 2019 its defining feature is the incitement the Arab public – which comprises 20 percent of Israel’s citizenry. In order to rally the public, populists are seeking to divide the country by stoking fears about an internal enemy.
The only way to face this challenge is to stand side by side – as citizens. We might disagree – even strongly, about some issues – but we citizens share a common interest in protecting our rights to freedom of expression and the legitimacy of broad political participation.
Let me put it bluntly. If we do not fight for absolute civic equality in Israel – for Jews and Arabs alike – there will be no equal citizenship here for any citizen.
If we don’t fight for a world in which a young Arab woman can be assured, not only that she has the right to vote for the Knesset and hold a blue identity card, but that her representatives in the Knesset can be ministers in the government, and an integral part of the decision-making process in Israel, we have not built a true democracy here.
This is not only a moral question of right and wrong. There is also a strategic dimension. Israel’s democratic camp has a majority. We can win. But we must face the fact that this majority includes Israel’s Arab citizens.
We are seeing social movements led by Jewish-Arab partnership struggling for a more just Israel. Movements that are saying ‘no’ to violence against women, that organize for the rights of Bedouin villagers in the south of Israel, that stand up together against incitement. We are seeing young Arab and Jewish progressive leaders committed to finding common cause to fight for a different future.
That is the future that NIF is betting on. And it is the path that we know will prevail.
Leviticus 19:18 Love thy neighbor as thyself. For that is truly the only way to love thyself. Thy neighbor IS thyself.
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