Here’s proof that the New York Times listens to Mondoweiss; the Times today finally ran a long article about how Palestinian citizens of Israel are participating in Monday’s election. This site has regularly hammered the Times for ignoring this story, most recently just 2 days ago.
First, the good news. Times bureau chief David Halbfinger actually visited several Palestinian communities in Israel, and reported as two candidates from the Joint List, which enjoys overwhelming support among Palestinian citizens of Israel, campaigned there. He wrote about some of the grievances in those areas, which the paper usually ignores. He even quoted Ayman Odeh, the charismatic leader of the Joint List, who has been largely a nonperson in the Times until now. Halbfinger pointed out some of Benjamin Netanyahu’s anti-Arab racism, which the paper usually keeps quiet about. And he mentioned that the Joint List is also successfully appealing to Israeli Jews (although he failed to report that some experts predict the Jewish vote for the Joint List could double, to 70,000).
Now, the Times’ failures. First, the paper inexplicably forgot to explain that Palestinian Israelis are 20 percent of the total population within Israel’s pre-1967 borders. How an editor failed to insert this fact in a 39-paragraph article is a mystery, but the omission leaves the impression that Palestinians are a smaller minority than they actually are.
Second, Halbfinger calls them “Arabs” throughout the article, never once describing them as “Palestinians.” This is standard Zionist practice, but he would have been less biased if he also referred to them as “Palestinian citizens of Israel,” a use favored by Ayman Odeh and others.
Halbfinger’s report does give us a tantalizing glimpse of Odeh in action, but now he should follow up with a profile of a man who distinguished Jewish Israeli journalists have called “the first superstar politician from the Arab community.” He might start with Odeh’s brave commitment to nonviolence. For decades, pro-Israel apologists have whined ad nauseum that there is “no Palestinian Martin Luther King” — well, here’s one, so let’s learn more about him.
But the Times report’s biggest failure is that it nowhere explains how electoral apartheid works in Israel. The country is having its third election in less than a year partly because there is so much anti-Arab racism among Jewish Israelis that none of the major Jewish parties will dare ally with the Joint List, even though it is the 3rd-largest political force in the country. The Jewish parties by themselves can’t form a governing coalition, so Israel has to keep voting, even though on paper a “minority” government with Joint List backing could be created.
Electoral apartheid therefore has another ugly feature; Palestinian voters know that the candidates they vote for will never be able to participate in the government, and that the number of Palestinian Israeli cabinet ministers over the decades has been laughably tiny. There would be indignation if black Americans and Latinos were still kept out of the U.S. government. So why didn’t Halbfinger ask those Palestinian Israeli voters that he finally got around to interviewing how they feel about this injustice?