Palestinians Pay Price Of Disunity – OpEd


With every year that passes, the ability of Palestinians to prosecute the case for their inalienable rights to statehood and independence diminishes.

Much of the problem lies with their own failed leadership and the many divisions that dissect the Palestinian political landscape, creating internal conflict and animosity. Too often, Palestinians are angrier with their own people than they are with the crimes committed against them by Israel’s military and its illegal, racist and violent settler movement.

The most recent evidence of this failure was on display this week when Israelis, Jews and non-Jews, went to the polls to vote on a new government.

The Israeli electoral system rewards political unity and punishes fragmentation. Parties must win at least 3.5 percent of the vote to gain representation in the Knesset — obtain less than that, and all your votes are wasted.

There is no better player of the system than former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who consolidated his political forces around a racist and Jewish-focused coalition that included the far-right Religious Zionismbloc. Netanyahu campaigned on a promise to strengthen Israel’s Jewish identity, suggesting in his rhetoric that non-Jews — the Palestinian citizens of Israel — were less important. That campaign was enough to propel him back into government.

Palestinians live in Israel as quasi-citizens under an umbrella of more than 65 laws that discriminate against them specifically because they are not Jewish. But instead of smartly confronting that discrimination, they too often wallow in self-pity. And instead of creating the political unity that would give them a voice in the Knesset, they squabble among themselves. The consequence is that Palestinians are effectively disenfranchised because their votes are wasted, or because they simply fail to vote — turnout among Palestinians in this week’s election was significantly lower than in the electorate as a whole.

Palestinians in Israel represent 20 percent of the population. If they were provided with unified political representation they could take 24 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, creating a powerful voice for Palestinian rights.

In 2015, Palestinians living in Israel forced themselves to overcome their selfish rivalries and came together under the unified banner of the Joint List. The 13 seats they won were still below their potential, but they showed what could be achieved. However, reality outlives reason. The Joint List broke up last year into separate Arab slates representing the four Arab parties. As a result, after this week’s election Arab parties will have no more than 10 seats in the new Knesset, and the Balad party even failed to reach the 3.5 percent threshold.

Instead of fighting among each other, Palestinians in Israel should set aside their petty differences, come together as one voice, and make a sacrifice for the common good. That they appear unable to do so reflects a much bigger problem than merely hoping for some miracle to bring about change.

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian-American former journalist and political columnist. Email him at [email protected].

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