Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why Don't Israeli Arabs Have Better Representatives?

Khaled Abu Toameh • November 15, 2011

Dudu Elharar, a famous Israeli singer, music producer, actor and television and radio presenter, was once a staunch left-wing supporter of the peace process with the Palestinians. Today, however, he is a right wing activist who no longer believes in peace or coexistence.

Last week, Elharar revealed that he changed his political views after watching and hearing former Arab Knesset member Azmi Bishara campaign against Israel in the local and international arenas.

Bishara was one of a number of Arab Knesset members who spent more time and effort seeking to delegitimize and isolate Israel in the international community than to look after the needs of his constituents.

Some of the Arab Knesset members have exploited this position to widen the gap between Jews and Arabs inside Israel. These Knesset members are largely responsible for the fact that Elharar and many Israelis today see Arab citizens of Israel as a fifth column and an enemy from within. Most of the Arab Knesset members are elected to defend the rights of the Arab minority and seek equality and better opportunities for their community. But instead of devoting most of their time to solving serious problems facing the 1.5 million Arab citizens, such as unemployment, poverty and lack of proper infrastructure, these parliamentarians start doing things that only cause damage to the interests of their constituents.

Bishara, for example, became friendly with some of Israel's enemies, including Syria and Hizbullah. He and other Arab Knesset members have been taking an active role in efforts to delegitimize, defame and isolate Israel in the international community.

It is not that they shouldn't have the right to criticize Israel. But when they appear alongside leaders and spokesmen for Hamas, Fatah, Hizbullah and anti-Israel groups around the world, the Arab Knesset members are playing into the hands of those Israelis who consider the Arab citizens as a real threat to Israel.

Just last week, another Knesset member told an anti-Israel forum in South Africa that Israel is an apartheid state. It is hard to see how such a grave allegation would help improve relations between Jews and Arabs inside Israel.

The role of Arab Knesset members should be to fight for increased budgets, better infrastructure, new working places and full integration into Israeli society. The overwhelming majority of Israeli Arabs are fighting for integration into Israel, not separation.

The next time Israeli Arabs go to the ballot boxes, they should vote for those who represent their real interests, and not candidates who only know how to deliver fiery speeches and promote hatred. This is the only way to rebuild mutual confidence between Jews and Arabs inside Israel and persuade people like Elharar that the Arab citizens are not on the side of the country's enemies.

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