The Truth about Israel’s Arab Parties

September 24, 2019 | Liel Leibovitz
About the author: Liel Leibovitz, a journalist, media critic, and video-game scholar, is a senior writer for the online magazine Tablet.

After the the Joint List, an alliance of Arab parties, emerged from the recent elections with the third-largest number of Knesset seats of any party, most of its members decided to endorse Benny Gantz for the premiership. This is only the second time—the first was in 1992—an Arab party has recommended any candidate for the position. While the decision has been welcomed as a great step forward in Jewish-Arab relations, Liel Leibovitz is skeptical:

The Joint List, sadly, remains a vehemently anti-Zionist party whose members have often expressed their support for convicted terrorists. . . . Most egregious among the party’s members, perhaps, is Heba Yazbak. A doctoral student studying gender and colonialism at Tel Aviv University, Yazbak has occasionally taken to Facebook to praise convicted terrorists, most notably Samir Kuntar, [whose victims include a four-year-girl, whom he murdered by bashing her skull with a rifle butt]. . . . Israel’s Supreme Court—which approved the disqualification of two far-right Jewish politicians for alleged incitement to violence—found no problem with Yazbak’s opinions, allowing her to run for office.

[The party’s] number three, is Ahmed Tibi, a former adviser to Yasir Arafat. A popular fixture with Arab leaders the world over, Tibi has cozied up to [dictators from] Bashar al-Assad to Muammar al-Qaddafi. In 2012, he was reprimanded by the Knesset after delivering a speech in Ramallah to celebrate the International Day of Shaheeds, or martyrs. “The occupier wants to call you terrorists,” he said, “but we say there’s nothing more noble than dying for your homeland.”

That a party like the Joint List—which is fiercely anti-Zionist and advocates turning Israel from a Jewish state into a binational one—can emerge as the nation’s third largest is a testament to Israel’s robust and vibrant democracy, the very one perpetually eulogized by sophisticated columnists in liberal newspapers the world over. But there is only one thing Benny Gantz must now do with this endorsement, which is reject it vociferously and unequivocally.

Read more on Tablet:

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register Already a subscriber? Sign in now