Shalom Life | October 17, 2015

Op-Ed: Arabs and Zionists Must Unite

Arab citizens who want to live in peace and equality with Israel's Jews don’t have to become Zionist, but they can help replace the nationalistic-aggressive government with a democratic peace government

By: Kobi Richter

Published: February 6th, 2015 in News » World

I would like to turn to Israel's Arab citizens because we share the same fate: We share the heart's desire and responsibility in the upcoming elections to turn the rule over from Benjamin Netanyahu's nationalistic-aggressive camp government to Isaac Herzog's democratic peace camp government.

In my opinion, the decision to choose the name "Zionist Camp" was not a bright one – not because I am not Zionist, but because it contains a rejection of my potential partners, Israel's Arab citizens. However, I do see this decision – and I know Herzog and Tzipi Livni thought it over before they approved it – as a mistake with good intentions.

The decision assumes that the electorate whose voting patterns should be changed is the Jewish public from the center to the right, which sees Zionism as an attractive headline. This decision also contains an assumption that the shared interests between the sane Jewish camp and Israel's Arab citizens are so clear that the title of the camp's name will not separate them.

I believe that Israel's Arab citizens are smart enough to understand their partnership of goals with the Zionist Camp – not because they are Zionist, but because of the interests they share with this camp.

I would also recommend that Herzog include in his government ministers and deputy ministers from Israel's Arab population, who have a high expertise level in many fields such as education (Prof. Faisal Azaiza), health (Dr. Bishara Bisharat), internal affairs and social services (Zohir Bahalul), science (Prof. Hossam Haick).

Israeli Arab woman votes in 2013 elections. 'We share the same fate' (Photo: Gil Yohanan)

Israeli Arab woman votes in 2013 elections. 'We share the same fate' (Photo: Gil Yohanan)

Zionism, as it was formulated in the minds of its fathers, does not deprive the Arabs of their rights and status. True Zionism has made it its goal to create a national home for the Jews here, alongside the Arab and in collaboration with them. Those Israeli Arab citizens who want to live in peace and equality with Israel's Jews don’t have to become Zionist, but they can cooperate with the sane Zionists.

In his book "The Founding Fathers of Zionism," Benzion Netanyahu described the Zionist doctrine of Theodor Herzl, Leon Pinsker, Max Nordau, Ze'ev Jabotinsky and Israel Zangwill. The five of them tried to create a Jewish movement for national independence; only two of them, Herzl and Jabotinsky, went as far as to describe the outcome – a mixed society of Arabs and Jews.

Jabotinsky phrased Zionism in his essay, "The Iron Wall": "Not for Jews only but for all people, and its foundation is equal rights for all the people."

Herzl's hero in "The Old New Land" describes Israel together with the Arab Rashid Bey and says along with him: "My friend and I don't distinguish between people. We don’t ask a man which race or religion he belongs to. He has to be a human being, that's all as far as we're concerned."

The representatives of the Hebrew Yishuv and all streams of the Zionist Movement demanded in the State of Israel's Declaration of Independence "complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex."

I ask those Arabs who are willing to advance the aspiration to replace the government to give their vote to Herzog. I ask those who find it too difficult to do so to go to the polls and vote for the Joint Arab List in order to secure an obstructive bloc. This list will be able to cooperate with a government of peace from the inside and from the outside and to raise the party vote threshold which may leave nationalistic parties out of the Knesset.

This is not just a Zionist interest, but an interest shared by all of Israel's sane citizens, both Arabs and Jews, who see our joint life in two states for two people as the beginning of the solution.

Reprinted with permission from Ynet News

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