NYT: Israeli Arabs lack "political opportunity"
Israeli Arab parties increased their membership in the Knesset from 10 to 11 seats in this week's national election. The turnout of Arab voters also rose -- from 53 percent in 2009 to 56 percent. One would think that such hard figures represent a testimonial of the extent and depth of Arab political rights and participation in Israel's body politic. Not to mention Arabs' desire to have their interests duly represented with a respectable voter turnout. In other words, rank-and-file Arabs are deeply engaged in Israeli politics -- despite calls by some of their radical leaders to boycott the election.
One might think so, but not at the New York Times. In a post-election article, Jodi Rudoren, the Times' Jerusalem bureau chief, sees nothing but a bad political shake for Israeli Arabs. In her words, "One thing that seems clear, though, is that the three Arab-dominated parties will be left out in the cold." ("With All Votes In, Netanyahu Assesses the Damage" Jan. 25, page A6)
How and why in the cold?
Well, if there had been a bigger Arab turnout, Rudoren writes, the Arab parties might have doubled their representation in the Knesset and blocked Prime Minister Netanyahu from forming the next government. Bibi, one must understand, is not a Times favorite. Also, on Rudoren's kvetch agenda, is the platform of Yair Lapid's centrist party, which came in second and insists that Orthodox Jewish and Arab youths join the military or perform national service along with all other young Israelis. Otherwise, they might lose special housing and education subsidies.
To accentuate her distaste for such egalitarian reforms, Rudoren finds an Arab youth program leader whom she quotes as complaining: "In other words, rights would no longer be automatically given to citizens, but would have to earned. This sets a dangerous precedent which would facilitate the further erosion of Palestinian civil rights in Israel."
Just imagine, Arab youths might have to earn their special rights -- just the way secular Jews do. How discriminatory is that?
Finally, Rudoren pumps in her basic complaint about Israel -- Arab politicians are never invited to take part in an Israeli government. A complaint that treats readers to the anti-Zionist lens through which the Times disdains Israel in general -- by quoting an Israeli-Arab lawyer: "They'll never be part of the system, because the system is designed as a Jewish state."
And that's what sticks in the Times' craw -- that Israel unforgivably is a "Jewish" state. One wonders how many Jews are part of the government in the 50-plus Islamic states in the world. And why Rudoren would never complain about their absence and exclusion.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers