The concept of Democracy and its power of voting is still a new concept for Arabs in Arab World and especially in Israel where they live as an oppressed, discriminated minority. But they still need to reconcile their actions with their admiration for the movement led by the late Civil Rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.
By Ray Hanania
This week, the world was reminded in Selma, Alabama about how important it is to vote even if your vote is oppressed by a racist government.
Hundreds of African Americans protested Alabama’s efforts to undermine the rights of Blacks to vote and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., led protests that were greeted by government violence.
Too often, Palestinians point to King as an inspiration, but I think they got it wrong. King NEVER sanctioned or endorsed any kind of violence. He believed in non-violence. He also believed in “normalization,” the word that Arab extremists hate the most.
King believed that despite the inherent racism of the United States, its society and its government and its policies, Black Americans were obligated to engage this society to change the system.
That’s what Selma was all about.
If King had urged his people to not vote, or to boycott the American electoral system, or not seek office, Blacks today would probably still be enslaved, victims of the “Democratization of Apartheid” in which the worst aspects of racism are softened to allow acceptance.
Yet, it’s just the opposite with the leadership of the Palestinian community here and abroad.
At every opportunity, Israel’s Arabs do everything they can to prove they are just like the rest of the Arab World and nothing like Dr. King. Backwards. Uncompromising. Unwilling to work from inside the system. They prefer to accept decades of defeat and continued conflict rather than to compromise and achieve their rights.
Israel’s Arab community almost got its act together when they formed “The Joint Arab List.” But, they were careful not to call it the “United” list because the concept of “unity” is so foreign to them.
The Arab World is characterized by disunity and so are the Arabs who live in oppression everywhere, including and especially in Israel.
The truth is this “joining” of the various Arab parties was not really stimulated by a surge in Democracy among Israel’s Arab minority, which continues to suffer endless discrimination and marginalization in Israel, or an inspiration in the non-violent spirit of Dr. King and the American Civil Rights movements.
It resulted from predictable Arab angry reaction to something Israel did. Isn’t it always like that?
Like the racists in the American government during the first half of the 20th Century, Israel’s extremist Jewish leaders do everything they can to prevent non-Jews in Israel from gaining their rights.
They deny Arab cities and villages equal government support similar to what is provided to Jewish cities, and of course, the illegal Jewish settlements which are the foundation of Israel’s growing violent, terrorist movement, just as segregationist governments in America denied financial aid to black communities through the 1970s.
Most recently, Israel made it harder for non-Jews to win seats in the Israeli Knesset (parliament).
Although Israel claims to be a Democracy, it’s not. Israel’s discriminatory system is rigged to ignore small minority parties. You run not as an individual, but a “Party List” of candidates. And, you can’t take a seat if you receive less than 3.25 percent of the total election votes cast.
Previously, the threshold was 1 percent, but like in Alabama, officials manipulated it to thwart Arab participation, raising it to 1.5 percent in 1988, and 2 percent in 2003. It went to 3.25 percent late last year.
Under the Party List system, the number of votes received determines how many candidates on a list actually take seats.
For the most part, Israel has ignored its Arab citizens because most have embraced the rejectionist ignorance that has dominated the Arab World since time immemorial. Most Arabs in Israel have refused to vote, as a protest.
Recently, the Meretz Party of Israel, the left-wing “social democratic” Zionist party founded in 1992, offered to work with the “Joint Arab List” of candidates to share “shirttail” votes, excess votes that are not enough to translate into a Knesset seat. It’s all simple math.
But rather than work with the Meretz Party and combine their surplus list votes, the Joint Arab List denounced them for supporting the occupation.
Dr. King recognized that there was a difference between true racists and the rest of American society that was driven by fears of Black people, fears fueled by years of racist literature and hatred, much like the anti-Arab propaganda that fills Israeli schools and pollutes the minds of Jewish children.
The stereotype is so easily embraced: All Arabs are terrorists; All Blacks are rapists and murderers.
Palestinian leaders don’t distinguish between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Meretz Party leaders who believe in the creation of a Palestinian state based on compromise and the two-state solution.
But the Palestinian leadership is far from being like Dr. King, and Palestinian society has been bred to embrace anger rather than reason. The hate industry in the Arab and Islamic world against Jews, and Christians and secular Muslims is so great it has produced “hate Zombies” who feed on the hatred.
There is no Dr. King in Palestine because no Palestinian leader, inside or outside of Israel, has the courage to do what’s right. They’re afraid of the backlash from the “hate zombies” who are provoked into violence by the same racism that fueled American anger against American Blacks.
Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist managing editor of The Arab Daily News at www.TheArabDailyNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @RayHanania.
To find out more about Ray Hanania and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2014 CREATORS.COM
Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. He began writing in 1975 publishing The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues as Special US Correspondent for the Arab News ArabNews.com, at TheArabDailyNews.com, and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday, the Orlando Sentinel, Houston Chronical, and Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
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