I have just returned from three weeks in Rahat, Israel, home to nearly 65,000 Bedouins, and I am worried about Arab-Jewish relations in the Negev.
It’s election season and the disgraceful incitement must stop. I am dismayed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s words that smear Israel’s Arab citizens, some 20 percent of the population. The climate has become increasingly divisive and deep damage is being done to Arab citizenship and Israeli democracy. Voices within Arab society have already called to boycott the elections in protest, in what would be a serious blow to Israeli democracy. Furthermore, government investments toward the economic development of Arab society are undermined by the alienation that results from this type of divisive rhetoric.
Recently, the discourse reached a fever pitch when Netanyahu, in response to actress Rotem Selah’s demand for equal treatment of Arab citizens, said, “Israel is not a state of all its citizens. According to the basic nationality law we passed, Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people.” My wish is to see the repeal of the nation-state law because of its inherently racist character and dangerous implications.
I was pleased to see President Reuven Rivlin demanding an end to the racist overtones and attacks on Arab society. He has warned not to regard Arab citizens as “second-class voters” and expressed shock at political parties who are discarding the democratic character of the state through an “unacceptable discourse” regarding the Arab-Israelis. What wonderful words, what leadership, and what a blessing.
I invite those of us who love Israel to express our views and concerns to our dear friends — the Israeli citizens — and ask them to vote based on values of freedom, equality, and justice for all. It is great to work together for a Shared Society and to love thy neighbor. There’s one reason we are here: to make this a better world. And for that reason let’s shout it out to our friends and family in Israel: No more racism!