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  • Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a press conference at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem on March 16, 2020 | Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
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Should the Arab Joint List be Included?

Johannes Gerloff - 1 April 2020

Seek, and you shall find. This is true also for those who enjoy accusing the Jewish state of Israel of racism. And the political drama that has blessed the Israeli people with three parliamentary elections within twelve months provides ammunition in abundance.

Yes, there is racism in Israeli society. This can never be excused, covered up or ‘put into perspective’ by inappropriate comparisons.

But not everything is racism that is described as such in heated political debates in Israel. A close look is crucial if one does not wish to become a victim of oriental emotions or fairy tales of the Arabian nights.

“God’s basic mission for Abraham is to be a blessing to ‘all families on the earth’ (Genesis 12:2-3).”

Jews and Gentiles in the Land
First, let us consider what the Bible says. Scripture paints an astonishingly nuanced picture of the Promised Land in which non-Israelites and the chosen people lived side by side and even in harmony with each other. Abraham’s calling is inconceivable without Gentiles. After all, God’s basic mission for Abraham is to be a blessing to ‘all families on the earth’ (Genesis 12:2-3).

Abraham exemplified this. He sets standards with his life, for example, through the close relationship with the brothers Eshkol, Mamre, and Aner in which one was willing to risk his life for the other (Genesis 14:13,24). Abraham knew and respected the spiritual and human authorities that he found in the land, as we can see, for example, in his relating to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:20). All of Israel’s ancient law, the Torah, is designed so that Israelites and Gentiles live together in the Land of Israel.

The vision of the Creator in his dealings with and through the people of Israel is a coexistence of Jews and Gentiles. Together God promises them a future. It is only one aspect that the prophet Isaiah sees in Jerusalem a ‘house of prayer for all nations’ (Isaiah 56:7). However, this applies to both Israelites and non-Israelites alike: only he has a future in the Land of Israel who asks for the will of the one and only, true, living God and then also practices it (Leviticus 18: 24-30).

But does this require the government of the Jewish State of Israel to cooperate with those who deny its legitimacy as a nation-state of the Jewish people – and even want to dismantle it? I don’t think so.

“The big winner of the March 2020 election is the Joint List of Arab parties.”

Pro and Contra Netanyahu
In the power struggle within the Knesset, two camps face each other. On one side there are the followers Benjamin Netanyahu, who is undoubtedly not only the longest- serving head of government but also the most popular prime minister the Jewish state has ever had. Netanyahu’s admirers include quite a few Arab citizens of Israel and even Palestinians.

Netanyahu is also Israel’s most hated head of government of all times. The face of Netanyahu’s opponent is Benny Gantz.

The big winner of the March 2020 election is the Joint List of Arab parties. With 15 seats, it is the third-largest party in the 23rd Knesset.

What distinguishes the MKs of the Joint List is their decidedly anti-Israeli stance. The Joint List demands that Israel give up the Golan Heights, Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and uproot all Jewish settlers in these areas. As a condition for his support of a Gantz government, Joint List chairman Ayman Oude demands that Jews will from now on be prohibited from visiting the Temple Mount. Non-Muslims are already banned from praying there.

The Joint List demands that all ‘political prisoners’ be released, including mass murderers such as Abdullah Barghouti, who killed 67, and Abbas A-Sayed, who killed 29 Israelis. A number of statements in the programme of the Joint List cannot be understood other than to support Palestinian terror against Israel.

Ahmad Tibi, one of the most distinguished members of the Joint List, has praised the well-known terrorist Marwan Barghouti and described the state of Israel as ‘colonialist’. Tibi sees firing rockets at Israeli civilians as legitimate resistance. At the same time, the Joint List demands that Israel abolishes its nuclear arsenal.

Two days after the election in a speech to his own right- wing block, Benjamin Netanyahu once again accused Gantz of wanting to form a government with the help of those who ‘do not recognise the State of Israel’ and ‘attack our soldiers’. Such people, according to Netanyahu, cannot be part of the political equation. Foreign Minister Israel Katz went on to describe the Joint List as ‘terrorists in suits’. The Joint List answered that “the Likud were losers with ties.”

Jewish MK Ofer Shelah (Blue-and-White) countered on Facebook that Netanyahu had declared war on Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. After all, the founding fathers of the Jewish state had imagined a country in which Arabs and other non-Zionists were citizens with equal rights.

Shelah is right to point out that labelling all Arabs as ‘terrorists’ or anti-Israel is wrong and unfair.

But this does not mean that the government should be compelled to allow those who seek to destroy the Jewish nation to join the government. That is not racism, just common sense.

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