15 March update: Elections in Israel are less than a day away, and it looks like the Joint List with Meretz is an attractive alternative in the Israeli-Arab “street” to not voting, or joining a large party. Check out one of the charismatic candidates from Haifa in this CNN story.
Israelis go to elections this week. All Israelis have the right to vote (if they are in-country on voting day). I’ve always been proud of the fact that ballot boxes are sent to military bases, prisons and hospitals to sweep up every last vote. Israel’s parliamentarian system is amazingly imperfect, yet it is better, at this point, than even the American system. It’s easy to buy a politician: it’s a bit harder to buy a party, each with its own internally-ranked list of possible Knesset members. That said, the baldly stated positions of these parties need little camouflage to attract the money, in contrast to the amorphous “Republican” or “Democrat” label in America, which by virtue of the breadth of the label, makes indiscernible the true views of the politician beyond their carefully crafted, handled, managed, spun sound bites.
It’s an ugly election where the true views and opinions of its citizens are brought bare for a popularity contest. And given that there are voting percentage thresholds preventing tiny (and usually fringe) parties from getting in, the simpler and more populist the message, the better the chances of that party getting sufficient votes to represent its ideological constituents.
This means that Israeli Arabs, if they want any say in obtaining a legitimate portion of the economic pie, must lump themselves together either into an oleo of communist, religious Muslim and ethnically Arab proponents — and achieve much thrashing with little concrete, usable policy or power, or vote with one of the left-leaning parties, and hope that said parties won’t forget their Arab voters once they get a say in government. This is akin to the American concept of gerrymandering, without all the trouble of reapportioning voters to geographies. And Israeli Arabs will lose here, as they have in almost all previous elections. But the y have the vote, and access to the laws of the land, and their courts. And slowly, incredibly slowly, their representatives are able to bring the resources their constituents need home to them.
At least in Israel Christians and Muslims have the right to vote, and, on paper if nowhere else, are full citizens of the country. And that’s the point: the minority in Israel has rights courts have reaffirmed countless time.
A democracy isn’t required to be run with the will of the people: the Hussein dynasty ruling Jordan has done an incredible job of providing a place at the table for Arabs of all faiths and sects. And while there is a Parliament which ostensibly runs the country, the real power is behind the throne and the Hussein dynasty. King Hussein rules because he considers the will of his people, and at the very least acknowledges it.
But a country run by those ignoring the will of its weak people (demographically or politically speaking) is not a true country: it’s a swath of land where those with power rule, and those without bend, hide, or die. A place like DAESH’s ephemeral domain. Or Iraq. Or Burma. Or any number of Emir/Calif/Prince/King -ruled places.