11 May 2016

Israel is jettisoning even the trappings of democracy

Apologists for the Israeli state always refer to the fact that Arabs have the vote in Israel, as if  putting your cross on the ballot paper once every 4 years rectifies all the racist injustices of the previous years.  In fact nearly 50% of Israeli Palestinians don’t even vote because it is considered a waste of time.  But those who do vote overwhelmingly for Arab parties (& the Communist Hadash) not under one electoral roof – the Joint List.

The reason the Arab parties and Hadash joined together for the first time ever was because the electoral threshhold was raised from 2% to 3 .25% in order to exclude Arab parties from the Knesset altogether.  That was the brainwave of the fascist former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.  That forced all the non-Zionist parties to come together.

Now the Knesset has decided to support a Bill that will allow the Jewish majority to expel or suspend Arab MKs.  In an ethnocracy, where different communities vote for either Jewish or Arab parties, then this means quite simply that the Jewish parties are deciding which Arab representatives will be allowed.

Democratic?  In Israeli terms yes, by most peoples’ standards no.

An article by Marzouq El-Halabi in +972 follows the one from Times of Israel

MKs Basel Ghattas, Haneen Zoabi and Jamal Zakalka, from the Joint Arab List’s Balad faction, visited the families of Palestinians killed while trying to stab Israeli soldiers. The MKs were trying to negotiate the returns of their corpses to the families. For this the Knesset ethics committee decided they should be suspended. Photo by Noam Moskowitz.
Proposal would allow lawmakers to ban colleagues for inciting racism, supporting terror; critics say move limits democracy

By Raoul Wootliff, Times of Israel

March 28, 2016

The Knesset voted on Monday night [March 28] to advance a controversial law enabling MKs to suspend their colleagues, approving the first reading of the bill by 59 to 52 votes.

The proposal would allow 90 MKs to vote to suspend lawmakers if they “negate the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,” incite racism, or express support for a terror group or state in its war against Israel.

The coalition managed to secure the win despite two Likud members refusing to support the measure, after the opposition Yisrael Beitenu party abstained from the vote.

The measure must still pass two more Knesset readings.

The vote was preceded by a flurry of speeches by MKs calling to support or oppose the measure, as well as discussions by some MKs about a soldier charged with murder over the shooting death of a wounded Palestinian assailant in Hebron last week.

Speaking before the vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the bill would help in Israel’s fight against terror.

“I expect all those who say they are in favour of the bill to vote in support and to not give an advantage or profit to those who support terror,” he told the weekly Likud meeting, anticipating rebellion by a number of coalition MKs.

Likud MKs David Amsalem and Avraham Neguise followed through on threats not to vote with the government until it renews the immigration of remaining Falashmura Jews from Ethiopia.

Earlier on Monday, Avigdor Liberman, head of hawkish Yisrael Beytenu, said he would not support the measure unless he gets tit-for-tat backing from the coalition for a bill to block the Supreme Court from involvement in activities of the Central Elections Committee.

Backed by Netanyahu, the bill was proposed after three Arab MKs made a condolence visit to the families of Palestinians killed while attacking Israelis, and the three observed a moment of silence, which some said was tantamount to showing support for terror.

In a legal opinion published hours before a Monday night vote on the bill, Eyal Yinon, the chief legal adviser for Israel’s parliament, said that while he does not deem it necessary, it is “preferable” the proposal receive a majority and could face legal challenges if it doesn’t.

"If MKs suspected of committing crimes, they should go to the Attorney General, not misuse parliament." President Rivlin

The controversial measure has been vociferously opposed by some, including President Reuven Rivlin, who warned that the power to punish lawmakers should not be in the hands of fellow Knesset members.

Earlier this month Rivlin said the bill reflected “a problematic understanding of parliamentary democracy,” and that the correct address for MKs who had committed or were suspected of committing crimes was the attorney general, not fellow lawmakers.

Writing on Twitter during the vote, opposition leader Isaac Herzog railed against the proposal, saying it would do nothing to prevent terror attacks.

“I call on the prime minister and his coalition: Stop!” he wrote. “This is an unnecessary and twisted law that is not needed in order to fight terror.”

In February, a stormy meeting of the Knesset’s Constitution Law and Justice Committee voted to send the MK suspension bill for a first reading in the Knesset — prompting the head of the Joint (Arab) List MK Ayman Odeh to announce that he and members of his party were considering resigning from the Knesset if the three lawmakers who made the condolence visit were expelled.

The three lawmakers were suspended on February 8 by the Knesset Ethics Committee — Hanin Zoabi and Basel Ghattas for four months, and Jamal Zahalka for two.

Odeh also said a bill such as the one under discussion could strengthen a nascent debate in Arab Israeli intellectual circles about creating a separate Arab parliament in Israel, which would act as a counterweight to a Knesset that only represented the country’s Jews.

Ahead of the vote, former Shin Bet head and current Likud MK Avi Dichter said Odeh would be called to account for his support of Palestinian terrorists assassinated by Israeli forces.

Odeh later took the podium and accused Dichter of “cheap and lowly incitement” to get headlines.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

By advancing legislation to exclude the Arab minority from the Knesset, Israel is showing the world that its political system is really only intended for one group.

By Marzouq El-Halabi, +972
April 08, 2016

The so-called “suspension bill,” which passed its first reading in the Knesset several weeks ago, constitutes another step by the Israeli Right to exclude Arab representatives from Israeli politics. The bill, which gives the Knesset the authority to temporarily or permanently suspend elected members, stems not from a worry over the fate of Israel’s democracy, but is part of the Right’s slow effort to maliciously and intentionally harm it. The ultimate goal of the bill goes unspoken, although it is clear to all: to remove the Arab electorate from the political game in order to ensure the Right’s reign in the near future.

That strategy began even before the right-wing parties marked Arabs in Israel as the targets of a well-orchestrated delegitimization campaign. There is not a single leader on the Right who has not tried his hand, whether through incitement, anti-democratic bills — some of which passed — or targeting specific Arab MKs in the Knesset. A racist public discourse that besmirches the Arab minority as a “suspicious group” that is always “at fault.” My presumption is that this incitement is organized, even if it comes from different political parties.

From cooperation to exclusion

After the Right failed, at least temporarily, to exclude the Arabs by raising the election threshold, it attempted to put pressure on the Arab minority and its representatives. Unfortunately, many media outlets cooperated with the Right’s mission, even so far as strengthening the attacks against the Arab minority and its representatives. When the atmosphere grew tense due to violent attacks by individual Palestinians, the Right struck again, this time by outlawing the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement. The Islamic Movement may have been the target, but the goal was to create an atmosphere in which the entire Arab public is removed from the political sphere. Now it seems that the Right has marked the representatives of the nationalist Balad party, and any other Arab representative that does not dance to the tune of Bennett or Netanyahu.
A Palestinian citizen of Israel votes in the 2015 elections, March 17, 2015 Ramle, Israel. Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org
The process is clear. The point is to drive a wedge between the Arab minority as a significant electorate power and the opposing right-wing camp. Let us remember that it was the Arab members of Knesset who provided a political safety net for Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in the 90s. This kind of scenario could repeat itself, which is exactly what the Right is trying to prevent by removing the Arab minority from the political game.

The establishment’s attitude since the founding of the state has been to include the Arab minority in the political game, and to encourage Arab citizens to participate in elections. Those who held this view believed that the participation of the Palestinians who remained in their homeland would give the nascent state a seal of approval, and would only strengthen its legitimacy in the eyes of the world. The legal attitude was much the same: aside from the “Al-Ard ruling” in the 1960s, Israel’s Supreme Court has tended to allow Arab parties who had been disqualified by the Central Elections Committee from participating in elections. The Right, which has failed at disqualifying Arab parties and leaders, is attempting to pass legislation that would allow it to do so.

And if they succeed? What then?

This move is not surprising since those behind it are right-wing ideologues who prefer the nation and religion over the state. What is surprising is the political camp that positions itself as an alternative to right-wing rule, the one which praises itself for protecting democracy. Instead of fighting for democracy and proper representative for Arabs, this camp turns a cold shoulder to them. This camp seems to enjoy taking part in the delegitimization of the Arab minority in Israel (see MK Avi Dichter’s speech targeting Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh*). This kind of discourse leaves little room for doubt that even the “enlightened” camp, which “fights for democracy” does not intend to include Arabs in its democracy.

Let’s imagine that Arabs are finally excluded from the Knesset, and that the number of Arab citizens who vote starts to dwindle — whether due to more anti-democratic legislation or as a response to the Right’s policies. That is precisely when the world will start to suspect that the regime in Israel is an apartheid regime that has come out of the closet. If the political game between the river and the sea becomes designated for one nation alone, the result will be that the Right in Israel will have succeeded in turning Israel into an apartheid state. There is no other name for this kind of rule. The problem is that we are already at the peak of this process.

Marzouq El-Halabi is an attorney, journalist, and author. He writes a regular column in the London-based Al-Hayat daily newspaper.

* The link provided in the text  [here] was actually to the March 1st Haaretz report of an attack by Odeh on former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter. A few weeks later ‘Former Shin Bet chief MK Avi Dichter (Likud) accused the Joint (Arab) List leader MK Ayman Odeh on Monday of doing nothing to stop terror against Israelis.’ Times of Israel, March 29, 2016

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