For a long time Zionist officials have sought to decide who can represent Palestinian citizens of Israel. Some talk about the “good, moderate Arab” who would avoid words like Palestine, equality, freedom, justice; forget about political or national rights and focus on day-to-day services. By this logic, the “moderate Arab” must concede defeat, accept Israel’s “greatness” and be thankful for anything he gets from it. Failure to comply will get you labeled as an “extremist.”
An example is when liberal Zionist media outlets call Itamar Ben-Gvir and me “two extremes.” He is an illegal settler in occupied Palestinian territory who has sided with those calling for further “transfer” of the indigenous Palestinian population, promoting war crimes and denying the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.
I have always promoted full equality for all Israeli citizens and the total end of Israel’s illegal colonial-settlement occupation. How could this be considered “extremist”? Only by those promoting a Jewish supremacist society who are threatened by any prospect of Palestinian equality or self-determination.
This is precisely what threatened Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who led a group of right-wing parties in petitioning against the participation of the National Democratic Assembly (Tajamu/Balad) in the upcoming Knesset election. He wasn’t bothered by Ben-Gvir and his racist anti-Palestinian agenda; he and those who followed him were bothered by our support for an Israel that becomes the state of all its citizens. By doing so they reaffirmed that Tajamu/Balad is the only party that calls for a fully democratic alternative to the current reality of colonial-settlement occupation and Jewish supremacist laws.
To be “balanced and moderate” in Israel means tolerating racism and occupation. Regretfully this is not just the message delivered by Zionist representatives. As long as European and U.S. officials continue to warmly endorse Israeli officials who champion this racism, little will change. It is not a secret that Prime Minister Yair Lapid himself promoted the banning of Palestinian family reunification, meaning the separation of thousands of families, as a tool to preserve Israel as a “Jewish state.” One day after our party was banned by the Central Elections Committee, the European Union ambassador to Israel responded to a communication from my side saying that the EU values “Israel’s commitment to the shared values of democracy and human rights.”
It is largely accepted in the field of political science that a democracy goes beyond the mere exercise of casting a vote, including the political culture itself. Arguing that Israel’s political culture supports a democracy based on human rights does not pass a minimum test, including if based on the EU’s own reports on settlements and human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory.
What is happening with the Palestinian citizens of Israel is a consequence of decades of empty slogans of “shared values” and Israel being “the only democracy in the region” while tolerating widespread racism, including through the so-called nation-state law.
Our project for equality and against the occupation will continue despite the daily incitement against us. At a moment when some are trying to make the Palestinian citizens of Israel responsible for whether Benjamin Netanyahu could be prime minister, our response is that we are not part of the Zionist left and especially not the Zionist right. We represent the Arab Palestinian minority in Israel and will remain loyal to those principles, pushing for the transformations needed to secure a just and lasting peace based on international law, freedom, equality and justice.
This path may be longer and may be labeled as “extremist” in Israel, but it is the only way to achieve social justice while complying with the principles of an international community that supports freedom and peace rather than tolerating, and even rewarding, occupation and apartheid.