Why aren’t Arab Israelis joining the anti-government protests?

“If you want Arabs to participate, you must take into account that Arabs have an agenda,” an Arab politician from Haifa, told JTA.

By World Israel News Staff

Arab citizens of Israel are not widely participating in the protests against the current government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the proposed reforms to the judicial system, despite concerns from Arab-Israeli leaders that changes to the Supreme Court could hurt the community.

Because the Supreme Court has sided with Israel’s Arab minority on multiple occasions, some Arab-Israeli politicians are attempting to mobilize the population to join left-wing Jews at the demonstrations, though results so far have been minimal.

“The Supreme Court is our last defense for our rights as a minority,” Malik Azzem, the deputy mayor of Taybeh, a large Arab city in central Israel, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA.) “The struggle for our rights is not separate from this struggle. We need to mobilize the public.”

Historically, Arab Israelis have had an ambivalent relationship with Israeli politics. Despite making up more than one-fifth of Israel’s population, they don’t hold significant political power, due in part to low voter turn-out rates and a frustration with the Arab parties that purport to represent them.

In 2021, Mansour Abbas’ Islamist Ra’am party became the coalition kingmaker that paved the way for the so-called change government, headed by Naftali Bennett. But Abbas kept mum about policy, diplomacy, and matters of national security, emphasizing that his party’s priority was obtaining funding for Arab communities.

Although Abbas has said he is against the reforms to the judicial system, he chose not to attend a press conference with other opposition party leaders on the matter.

One of the major roadblocks for Arab participation in the protests is the focus on stopping judicial reform rather than on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Yesh Atid MK Merav Ben-Ari said she welcomed “anything that strengthens the protests,” including increased Arab participation. But she told JTA that Arab issues should not be on the agenda for demonstrations.

“How is the occupation connected?” Ben-Ari said. “What is needed is to talk about the reform. Everyone who loves the country and cares about it has to fight against the reform and the harm to the Supreme Court.”

Many Arab Israelis are unwilling to join a protest movement that does not prioritize their concerns.

“We want to change the rules of the game, not just preserve what exists. What exists is not good,” Reem Hazzan, a local Arab politician from Haifa, told JTA . “We need to speak about the occupation and about discrimination. If you want Arabs to participate you must take into account that Arabs have an agenda.”

“I’m against participating in any demonstration that is embarrassed to talk about context and the occupation. I support something broader,” echoed Sondos Saleh, a former MK from the Joint List party, in a conversation with JTA.

The post Why aren’t Arab Israelis joining the anti-government protests? appeared first on World Israel News.

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