June 16, 2019

Lucy Aharish on Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Arabs make up 20 percent of Israel’s population – greater than either blacks or Latinos do of the American population.

So, there are very few pundits and politicians – including our own President – who have not offered their opinion on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s public election day plea urging his supporters to vote because, “The Arabs are voting in massive quantities!”

Some say Netanyahu’s rhetoric undermined the very notion of Israeli democracy – a prime minister raising the alarm that his own citizens are voting.  Others say too much is being made of what in any democracy could just be seen as an election-day gambit to motivate the base.

How did Israeli Arabs themselves react?

Some forgave the Prime Minister his remarks and accepted his apology.  Many voted for him. 

Others, such as Lucy Aharish, a popular Israeli broadcast journalist, expressed full throated outrage.

In a much-viewed Hebrew language interview on an Israeli news channel, Aharish, a native of Dimona in israel's south, clearly was move to tears by the Prime Minister’s words, but not in a good way.

The clip is embedded on reshet.tv site so a simultaneous translation is not possible, but Lawrence Weinman provided a translation to the Jewish Journal, which is edited below.  Even if you can’t speak Hebrew, it’s worth watching to see Aharish convey the outrage and hurt that many in the Israeli Arab community felt. 

Lucy Aharish on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's “Arabs-are-voting warning:”

“This is shocking simply shocking to hear this…I could understand it from every other Knesset member, every other party head, because many things were said in the course of the campaign: Sephardim against Ashkenazim, Left against Right, against Arabs…”

“But we are speaking of a prime minister.  When it gets to this point, when the prime minister of Israel– who is the prime minister, not of the People of Israel as he likes to say in his speeches, but of all the citizens of the State of Israel– says “The Syrians are on the border,  the Arabs are coming on busses—“  it is impermissible, simply impermissible…”

“…It seems he forgot that three months ago, that a few months ago here, 3 boys were killed because they were Jewish, and a month later an Arab boy named Abu Mohammed Kheidar was killed because he was an Arab. Next time there is a murder like this, it will be as if the Prime Minister gave a kashrut certification to this,  because he said it is okay to hate Arabs.” 

“You and I understand this, but the Prime Minister doesn’t understand this. We know what stood behind these statements. We can understand why he calls out to people like this. When extremists, like for example the head of the Shomron Council…said that at the end of the day the Israeli Arabs are enemies. The words the Prime Minister said gave them legitimacy. Because when he says, ‘The Arabs are going out to vote in masses,’ a vote which is their legitimate right as citizens of Israel …..This is shocking, simply shocking.”

“Because I am a citizen of this State! I am a citizen of this State! I don’t believe that the Prime Minister of this state can speak that way. I can understand why Yitzchak Shimoni said the things he said during  the last Gaza War. But when the prime minister of the government of Israel, who is supposed to be the prime minister of all the citizens of the State of Israel, allows himself to say such things, it is shocking, simply shocking. Impossible, impermissible. To speak words of incitement against 20 percent of the citizens of his country…”

“I agree, the Joint Arab List was problematic because it united all the Arabs left and right, extremists and moderates. I agree it wasn’t healthy,  but what the Israeli Arabs said at the end of the day to their leaders is, ‘We got 13 seats, 2 taken from Meretz.’ They said to their leaders we don’t believe in you, and they didn’t get out and vote for them.” 

“But at the end of the day what happened? The Prime Minister of Israel speaks out and says what he did,  that the ‘Arabs are getting on busses and are coming to vote…”

“I am not a citizen of this country? I don’t have an Israeli ID card? I don’t have an Israeli passport ? I am not a citizen of this state? My parents don’t live here? My parents weren’t born here? This isn’t their country?”

“What is the Prime Minister saying to me? What is the Prime Minister of Israel telling me?”