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July 20, 1984 - Image 18

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-07-20

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

-18 friday, July 20,- 1084 - -

- -

TA DEl'fi01T JEWFSFF NEWS

THE ARAB VOTER

AS THE ELECTION campaign
draws to a close, Israel's Arabs, who
account for 17 per cent of the
population and 10 per cent of the
electorate, are divided into three
basically different political streams.
There are those who believe that
in a Jewish state the day-to-day in-
terests of the Arab minorities can
best be served by swallowing hard
and voting for one of the "Zionist"
parties.
They are opposed by those who
believe that their sense of Arab
dignity and the history of the Zionist
parties' "perfidy" in resisting a true
integration of Arabs within their
ranks oblige them to vote for "pure"
Arab lists.
Then there are those who so abhor
the very existence of the State of
Israel that they regard any collabora-
tion with the Israeli electoral and
political process as treachery to the
Arab-Palestinian cause.
In the last Knesset elections, in
1981, close to 51 per cent of the Arab
vote went to the Zionist parties
directly, with 29 per cent voting for
the Labour Alignment. This was the
largest percentage ever won by the
Zionist parties among the Arabs.
The reason for this was quite
clear. The experience of four years
of Israel's first Likud government
was so frightening that many Arabs
who could never have brought them-
selves to do so in the past opted for
the Alignment as the best bet to put
Menachem Begin and his Likud
coalition out of office.
Rakah, the Israel Communist Par-
ty, has monopolized the vote of
those Arabs who would have no
truck with Zionist parties or their
sectarian fronts since 1965, when the
united Jewish-Arab communists
split and Jewish communist voters in
effect disappeared. In 1977 Rakah,
in the guise of the Democratic Front,
reached a high point, winning 50 per
cent of the Arab vote. In 1981,
however, the figure declined to 37
per cent.

THE THIRD stream, those Arabs
who resist being tainted by any asso-
ciation with the politics of the Jewish
State, are represented by the grow-
ing percentage of Arabs who do not
vote. In 1955, 90 per cent of the Arab
electorate voted; the number de-
clined to 74 per cent in 1977 and to an
unprecedented low of 68 per cent in
1981.
' The discrepancy between the 17
per cent of the population which the
Arabs and Druse comprise and the
10 per cent they make up of the
electorate is explained by two fac-
tors.
First, one has to subtract the
110,000 Arabs of Jerusalem, whom
Israel considers part of its popula-
tion since the formal annexation of
East Jerusalem in the wake of the Six
Day War, but who have steadfastly
declined the offer of Israeli
citizenship.
Secondly, the fact that Israel's
Arabs, as a result of an impressive
population explosion during the last
36 years, when they were exposed to
Israeli medicine and economic con-
ditions, have an inordinately high
proportion of young people and
well over half the population is
below voting age.
But even 10 per cent of the electo-
rate could bring in 12 Knesset mem-
bers. The largest number of Arabs
and Druse ever to sit in the Knesset
was eight, in the parliament elected
in 1977.
The number of Arab and Druse
MKs dropped to five in the present

As for the PLP — I don't believe
that any purely Arab party (as they
claim to be) will, be permitted to
make it. They say that they believe in
the same things Rakah does, so why
split our forces and set up a separate
party?"

All the Arabs I spoke to agreed
that the two events of the past few
years that will most affect the Arab
vote are the war in Lebanon and the
growing legitimation and recourse to
anti-Arab rhetoric in the Jewish sec-
tor under the Likud government.

11#

Ex-President Yitzhak Navon campaigns for Labour in an Arab village.

Multiple identities

Knesset: two in the Alignment; two
in Rakah; and one Druse in the
Likud.
An analysis of what happened
to the Arab vote last time leads to
the following conclusions in regard
to Arab representation in the Knes-
set: as noted, the participation rate
declined to bh per cent (compared
with the 80 per cent for the Jewish
vote); the 12 per cent of the Arab
vote that went to the five sectarian
lists were totally wasted from the
point of view of Knesset representa-
tion; the 51 per cent that were given
to Zionist lists, and were "worth"
5-6 seats, were actually rewarded
with only three MKs; the 37 per cent
who voted for Rakah, which won
four seats, resulted in only two Arab
MKs due to the communist policy of
absolute parity between Arabs and
Jews in its Knesset list.
In a tour of Arab towns and vil-
lages last week to discover opinions
and trends in that sector, I asked
Arabs who readily identified them-
selves with the second stream —
"Arabs should vote only for an Arab
party" — what objection they had to
voting for Rakah.

THE FIRST objection was to com-
munism. Most of Israel's Arabs, I
was told, and especially those in the
villages, are uncomfortable with
anything that smacks of such a here-
tic ideology. Many Arabs are innate-
ly conservative on such matters,
partly for religious reasons. But even
younger, more radical, Arabs are
suspicious of the motivat;ans of any
group that is as subservient as Rakah
is to Moscow.
The second objection is to the
communist insistence on having one
Jew for one Arab in its Knesset
faction, and having a Jew. Meir
Wilner, lead its list. Many Arabs told
me that they saw it as an insult to
Arab dignity to have a party that gets
all its votes from Arabs headed by a
Jew and half represented by Jews.
Ahmed Abu Asbe, the chairman
of the Jatt local council made no
secret of his preference for a purely
Arab party to present Arab in-
terests. "But I am convinced that no
such party will ever be permitted to
make it," he said. "The Israeli
political system will fight all-out
against any attempt to organize
such a purely Arab party, even if it
is above all suspicion."

Yosef GoeN

This time around, Abu Asbe is
associated with the Alignment.
The problem, he added, is that the
Alignment is not serious about integ-
rating Arabs. "They lead us by the
nose and hold us cheap. There are
those among us .who believe that if
we only persevere, integration,
especially in the Alignment, will
eventually come about. I believe
that it will only he possible if Arabs
are organized in distinct and sepa-
rate formations in the Zionist par-
ties, with appropriate representation
at all levels."

RA'ANAN COHEN, who heads
the Labour Party's Arab Depart-
ment (typically, he is a Jew of Iraqi
origin), is deeply involved in the
election campaign. Interviewed by
The Post, he agreed that Labour
would be missing the chance of a
lifetime if it did not show real signs of
working for the integration of
Arabs.
He as much as admitted that he
lost the fight for greater Arab repre-
sentation in the Alignment's list.
The list now includes only two
Arabs in realistic places.
One other Arab at least should
have been included much earlier in
the list, he argued. But then he
added; "If one judges by the 48,000
votes the Alignment got from the
Arabs last time, then two MKs are
exactly what they deserve."
Cohen said he believed it possible
to hold on to the 48,000 Arab voters,
and even to increase their number,
primarily on the basis of the urgent
Arab need to help unseat the Likud.
Abu Asbe agreed. In his case, the
only thing motivating him to go
along with the Alignment is the need
to be rid of the "greater evil." He
doubted, however, whether the
Alignment would be able to hold on
to the percentage of the Arab vote it
got last time.

THE MAIN fight that is developing
in the Arab sector is between the
Progressive List for Peace and
Rakah. The communist daily AI-
Ittihad loses no opportunity to lam-
baste the new competitors for the
pro-PLO vote. So far the PLO is on
record as urging Israeli Arabs to vote
for Rakah; but PLP activists are

trying to spread the word that in
their heart of hearts the PLO leaders
would prefer an Israeli party that is
unswervingly loyal to the cause of
unadulterated Palestinian national-
ism represented by the PLO, with-
out Moscow and its Rakah stooges as
intermediaries.

When I found widespread resent-
ment against the inclusion of Jews in
the Rakah list, I asked what made
the PLP different, since it had seen
fit to include Gen. (Res.) Matti
Peled as No.2 and Ya'acov Arnon
just a little lower on the list.
Mohammed Miari is the Haifa
lawyer who heads the PLP list.
Miari explained the inclusion of Jews
in his list as an expression of maturity
after the failed attempt to set up a
purely Arab list, Al Ard, in 1965.
"I've matured. Radicalism and
moderation are questions of propor-
tion," he said. "What was radical 10
years ago is accepted today. Al Ard
was the first attempt, albeit at an
inappropriate time, to put forward
the problems of Palestinian national-
ism. We're more realistic today and
we're taking all the forces acting in
the political arena into account. Al
Ard was purely Arab, while today
we're making a joint effort. That's
progress, according to our con-
cepts."
Hashem Mahameed, the newly
elected chairman of the Umm el
Fahni local council (with a popula-
tion of 24,000, it is the largest Arab
town outside Nazareth), is an exam-
ple of the daily communist presence
in the Arab street. Mahameed, who
has an MA in educational counsell-
ing from Tel Aviv University, is
running an open-door policy at city
hall; he personally takes care of
matters big and small.

HE SAYS he is not a communist
although he was elected on the
Democratic Front (Rakah) list to the
local council. He is also the No.5
man on the Rakah list.

He shares Rakah's ideology,
favouring the creation of a Palesti-
nian state alongside Israel through
the return of conquered territories.
"As for the Alignment, it's no
different from the Likud. Last time
48,000 Arabs voted for them in re-
sponse to the call to stop the Likud.
But both domestically, on the
Palestinian question, and in Leba-
non, there's really no difference.

THE WAR in Lebanon was espe-
cially traumatic to Israel's Arabs
because for the first time since the
1948 War of Independence their
friends and relatives in the camps
and cities of southern Lebanon were
directly affected. On this issue most
Arabs I spoke to said they believed
that the Alignment worked hand in
hand with the Likud on the invasion
of Lebanon, and that the differences
between the two developed only
later over the secondary question of
the depth of penetration, not the
desire to wipe out the PLO.
On the domestic scene what rank-
led among Arabs of all political per-
suasions was the clearly discrimina-
tory bill adopted by the Knesset to
exclude Arabs from increased
National Insurance child allow-
ances. It was admitted that the
motion was instigated by Tami with
the collusion of the Likud. But
everyone recalls that the first such
discriminatory legislation was
adopted at the beginning of the
1970s under a Labour government.
Surprisingly, there was a large
degree of agreement among all my
Arab informants regarding the Arab
vote on July 23. None believed that
the Alignment would get more than
it did in 1981; some believed that it
would lose some votes. With the
PLP clearly in the running, nearly all
expected that whatever votes it got
would be at the expense of Rakah.
(The great unknown in this connec-
tion is how many votes the PLP will
get from those who had planned to
abstain.)

IT WAS estimated that Ezer Weiz-
man's Yahad would get from five to
10 thousand votes at most, despite
such coups as obtaining the support
of the chairman of the Kafr Kara
council, Mohammed Massarwa.
The Likud, I was told, would hold
on to its supporters among the
Druse, especially in view of the shab-
by way the Alignment treated its
own Druse supporters.
Last time around the National
Religious Party got 5,500 Arab
votes, which were attributed to its
control of the patronage of the' Reli-
gious Affairs and Interior Ministries.
The NRP is expected to get some-
what less this time because of doubts
concerning its inclusion in a new
Alignment coalition, and of its keep-
ing its clout in a Likud government,
given the fragmentation in the reli-
gious camp.
Shinui got 6,500 Arab votes last
time and might keep them in view of
the placement of Druse Zaidan
Atche in the No.3 spot. Shulamit
Aloni's CRM and a number of other
small lists may also get the smatter-
ing of votes they got in the past.
Speaking to Arab voters one can-
not escape the impact of the dilem-
ma that confronts them, the 36-year-
old dilemma of having to choose
between their multiple identities. It
would seem that this dilemma has
undoubtedly been made more acute
by events of the past three years.D

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