Thursday, April 9, 2015

The MENA Minorities Knesset check (2): The Joint list

Elections are over and the 20th Knesset already assembled last week. We have discussed the non-Jewish candidates (some of the Druze won't categorize themselves as Arabs) of the Zionist parties before - the following have been elected:

Ayoob Kara (LIKUD)
Zouheir Bahloul (Zionist Union)
Hamad Amar (Yisrael Beiteinu)
Issawi Frej (Meretz)

Since the Zionist Union only reached 24 seats Druze candidate Saleh Saad didn't make it into the Knesset for now, but he has good chances to enter on a partial tenure during the next years. For Akram Hassun, who is also two seats away from a mandate but in a way smaller party, I am not very optimistic. Again we see an overrepresentation of the Druze in the Zionist parties with two out of four MK's while they constitute only 10 per cent of the Arab-Israeli population.

Let's have a closer look at the new Arab Joint List and its MK's. The list is composed of the following:

The  HADASH gathering (which is dominated by the Israeli Communist Party MAKI)
Secular Arab Nationalist BALAD, which is in Israeli public often considered the most radical Arab party;
TA'AL, more or less a one-man show of very popular politician Ahmed Tibi;
RA'AM (United Arab List) is dominated by the Southern faction of the Islamic movement.

Now to the MK's of the Joint List:

1. Ayman Odeh is the chairman of HADASH and a lawyer from Haifa. Contrary to popular belief he is a secular Muslim and not Christian like the majority of Haifa's old Arab population. Before his bid for the HADASH-leadership he was widely unknown to Israeli media.

2. Masud Ghnaim is a leading member of the Southern faction of the Islamic movement (the Northern faction is boycotting the election) and made headlines some years ago when he called for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate. Ghnaim is from the Arab town of Sakhnin in the Galilee.

3. Jamal Zahlka, the head of the BALAD party. He is Sunni and from the town of Kufr Qara' (Haifa district).

4. Ahmad Tibi is by far Israel's most popular Arab politician and a frequent guest on Israeli media (with a better commandment of the Hebrew language than some of the Zionist MK's). He jumped over his shadow and accepted the fourth slot on the list. A former advisor to Arafat he is from Tayibe and Sunni.

5. Aida Touma-Suleiman came in second in the HADASH primaries. She is a Christian from Nazareth and lives in the mixed city of Acre. Being a veteran HADASH-activist, she had been editor of the Al-Ittihad newspaper, the famous Arabic Communist newspaper.

6. Abd al-Hakim Hajj Yahya is a member of the Islamic Movement and a former mayor of Tayibe.

7. Haneen Zoabi is from Balad and the most controversial Arab MK in Israel. She became a symbol for "radical" and "hateful" Arab politicians in Israel but despite all the efforts to ban her from running for election she made it to the Knesset for the third time. She competed in the mayoral race in Betlehem 2013 but performed poorly. In 2009 Zoabi was the first female Arab to enter the Knesset on behalf of an Arab party. She hails from a Muslim family of Nazareth and has many politicians in her family like Abd el-Aziz el-Zoubi (first Arab Israeli cabinet-member) and Seif el-Din el-Zoubi (former Knesset member and mayor of Nazareth).

8. Dov Khenin is the only Jew serving in the Knesset for the Joint List and a popular member of HADASH hailing from a "political family" (his father David was also a Communist leader). He symbolizes the Jewish-Arab character of the party and many wondered if there would be a slot for him on a Joint List-obviously - there is.

9. Taleb Abu Arar, a Sunni Bedouin from the South and member of the Islamic Movement. He might be the only current MK to have two wives.

10. Basel Ghattas is a Christian from the mixed village of Rameh and cousin of Amzi Bishara, the founder of BALAD who resides in Doha. He represents the latter party. Ghattas is very vocal against attempts of drafting Christian Arabs into the IDF or establishing a separate "Aramean" nationality.


11. Yousef Jabareen is on a Hadash-ticket and also known as member of Mossawa, a NGO for Arabs in Israel.

12. Osama Saadi is the number two of Tibi's Ta'al party.

13. Abdullah Abu Ma'aruf is from the Druze village of Yarka and one of many Arab Israeli Communists who studied in the Soviet Union. Until recently he also carried Russian citizenship. Abu Ma'aruf is also a leading member of the Druze Initiative Committee, which is also part of Hadash. He is only the third Druze MK representing an Arab or Jewish-Arab party.

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