News Release

Netanyahu’s Warning on Arab Voters “Encapsulates Israel’s Contradiction”


CNN is reporting that in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s interview with Andrea Mitchell to be aired tonight on “NBC Nightly News” that Netanyahu “walked back another controversial campaign remark, when he urged his supporters to go out to counteract the effect of Arab voters who he said were rushing to the polls ‘in droves.’

“‘I wasn’t trying to suppress the vote,’ Netanyahu said. ‘I’m very proud to be the prime minister’ of all Israel’s citizens.’ Netanyahu went on to point out that he drew support from ‘quite a few Arab voters.'”

Dr. HATIM KANAANEH, hatimkanaaneh at
Currently in D.C. and in New York City next week, Kanaaneh is a public health physician, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, and the author of the recently released short story collection, Chief Complaint: A Country Doctor’s Tales of Life in Galilee.

He said today: “Of course the vast majority of Palestinian citizens of Israel voted for the non-Zionist Palestinian parties, but these parties are constantly threatened and excluded by politicians like Netanyahu.

“The appeal that Netanyahu issued — warning that Arabs were voting en mass — really encapsulates for the world Israel’s contradiction: it claims to be both Jewish and democratic. The notion that a leader of a country would be complaining that part of the population is voting is extraordinary. It’s not just an election issue, that’s the pain of our existence in Israel that affects every aspect of our lives. … The Palestinian population in Israel has been widely ignored, but can and should play a role in meaningful peace efforts.”

Kanaaneh recently wrote the piece “Israel’s Arab voters threatened” in The Hill, which states: “Since the Oslo Agreement, settler politicians have brought their hateful rhetoric and open violence against Palestinians back across the green line [between Israel and the territories it occupies] with calls for exiling the remaining Palestinian minority in Israel. Rightist Zionist parties have incorporated exile planks into their election platforms. This past weekend, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman reiterated his support for ethnic cleansing by calling for removing Palestinian citizens to areas nominally controlled by the Palestinian Authority. And he doubled down on those statements, which we’ve heard from him previously, with a call for beheading Palestinian citizens of Israel who don’t display his brand of loyalty to the state: ‘Anyone who’s with us should be given everything — up to half the kingdom. Anyone who’s against us, there’s nothing to do — we should raise an axe and cut off his head; otherwise we won’t survive here.’ …

“Since the establishment of Israel, no lead party has ever entered into negotiations with the Arab Knesset members to include them in a coalition to form a government. Conveniently, Arab politicians have refrained from clamoring to be included in coalitions sure to oppress Palestinians in the occupied territories. Palestinian citizens of Israel remain all too much like the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964 that was cruelly disenfranchised at the Chicago Convention. As John Lewis (D), now a U.S. congressman from Georgia, said then, ‘We had played by the rules, done everything we were supposed to do, had played the game exactly as required, had arrived at the doorstep and found the door slammed in our face.’

“Arab parties have yet to break the exclusionary Zionist mold of the executive. Still intact are long-standing practices solidifying such undeclared principles as the Jewishness of the state, the unitary and supreme nature of Hebrew as Israel’s only de facto official language, and the sanctity of the Law of Return. Worse, and too frequently unmentioned, is the fact that four million more Palestinians in the occupied territories, whose lives are effectively controlled by Israel, have no vote whatsoever for the government which most dictates the nature of their lives and circumscribed liberties.”

Kanaaneh is on a speaking tour and will be giving a talk at the Palestine Center in D.C. on Friday at 1 p.m.