The Dilemma of Israel’s Joint List Party: Participate or Boycott?

Welcome to The Real News. I’m Marc Steiner. Great to have you all with us. Approximately 22 percent of the 9 million
Israeli citizens are non-Jews; the majority of those are Palestinians. They do have representation in the Israeli
parliament, the Knesset, but that representation has come under increasing pressure from Israeli
leaders, when they reprimanded one member and worked to silence Palestinian members
and members of Knesset at another event, to the fracturing of the United Front of Palestinian
Israelis they had with one another and their Jewish allies. Why fracturing? Well, we’ll talk about that. On the one hand, Palestinian citizens of Israel
use Knesset to fight against institutional racism and discrimination. On the other hand, the Israeli government
uses the fact that Palestinians sit in the Knesset to prove that non-Jews have the right
to vote and that Israel is truly a democratic country. In 2015, Israel increased the minimum percentage
for a party to hold seats in the Knesset to 3.25 percent of the vote. Now, that political maneuver forced the three
so-called Arab parties to join forces, creating a united front, in essence, called the Joint
List. Joint List is comprised of three very different
parties, the left wing progressive party, Hadash, the national Palestinian Balad party,
and the Islamic Ra’am party which itself was unified with Ta’al under the leadership
of Ahmed Tibi. So the chairman of the Joint List, Knesset
member Iman Ouda, spoke to Israeli television just three weeks ago and had this to say. Despite this call for unity, one of the three parties comprising the Joint List,
Ra’am-Ta’al, as I said under the leadership of Ahmed Tibi, decided to split off from the
Joint List and run on its own. So one really has to ask the question, given
the dramatic rise of the ever more extreme right in Israeli politics, is this the right
time for parties that stands the left and that are engaged in the fight for minority
rights to really split? Well, we’re now joined by Israeli Knesset
member Dov Hanin. And Dov Hanin is a fascinating political figure
in Israeli politics as a lawyer, environmental activist. He studied the law, as I said, has a PhD in
Political Science from Tel Aviv University, postdoc work at Oxford University on the relationship
between social and environmental movements and questions. And he joined the Hadash party in Israel,
which then became part of the Joint List. He’s now served 13 years as a member of
the Knesset. And although he was constantly in the opposition,
he amazingly enough passed more laws than any other member of the Knesset. How did he do that? We’re going to find out. Hanin is the only Jewish member who is part
of the Joint List, and he recently announced that he will retire from the parliament, not
to participate in these elections coming up as soon as a candidate, but will continue
his work as an activist. And welcome, good to have you with us. Hello, good evening. So let’s just jump into this. I’m curious about a couple of things. I mean, the Hadash Party. Explain to our viewers a bit about who the
Hadash party is on the left, where they come from, how they’ve been doing this fight
in the Knesset, and why you’re the only Jewish member and what that means. Well, actually, Hadash is a movement that
is based on three basics principles. The first principle is socialist values. The second principle is our struggle to achieve
a just and comprehensive peace between Israel and the Palestinians, between Israel and the
Arab world. We would like to see this peace being achieved
on the basis of two states with the 4th of June’s 1967 border as the border between
these two states. And third, the very important principle of
Hadash is our belief in a joint Jewish-Arab political movement, joint Jewish-Arab political
struggle. And I joined Hadash because I support three
very important principles. But as you said, back in 2015 when the right
wing government raised the electoral threshold, the number of votes needed in order to enter
Israeli Knesset, our movement, Hadash, was forced to join forces with other political
movements or parties based on the Arab population in order to stay alive. So the real reason why the Joint List was
created was not a gradual rapprochement between the various parties, but actually had the
political need of all these movements, all these parties to stay alive with the new higher
electoral threshold. So what is it about Hadash, or is it the Joint
List, where at least one member has to be a Jewish member, is that a very conscious
decision on the part of Hadash? Well, in Hadash, we have internal democratic
elections. I was elected in secret ballot all the times. But we would like our movement to be a Jewish-Arab
movement, and therefore, we would like also our faction in the Knesset to be Jewish-Arab. We have four Knesset members, I am the only
Jewish member of the Knesset section of Hadash. But as a movement, we have activists, those
coming from the Jewish population and from the Arab minority inside Israel. So I think we’d all be very curious to find
out how you, who has been vilified by a number of people in parliament and in Israeli politics
and were so successful as a Knesset member in making coalitions to pass laws around the
environment especially, and how you could pull that off given that you’re a member
of Hadash and how people vilify that party as well. So how did you do that? I mean, how do you end up becoming so effective,
given the politics that you represent? As a matter of fact, you are right. Since being elected to the Knesset, I was
able to pass laws, and 100 different laws that I initiated, and they are now part and
parcel of the Israeli book of laws. These are environmental laws, social laws,
laws defending the homosexual communities, and laws defending human rights, including
the rights of prisoners in Israeli prisons. So I am very satisfied with my legislation. To try to answer you very quickly, being the
Knesset member for the opposition in Israel is hard, it’s a difficult profession. We should do it very, very professionally,
and we should use all the opportunities that arise from time to time because of the internal
contradiction in the political camp of the governing parties. We should learn to find ways to use all the
cracks in the systems, using this possibility. So it is amazing to me, I mean, given that
you have been vilified as being–some people even called you a terrorist and a traitor
and more. Just one very quick question, I’m just curious. I mean, how does it feel to sit in a parliament
when you know you’re on the outside, especially more increasingly so since the right has become
so much more powerful in Israel? It must be a very difficult thing to kind
of go through. Well, serving in the Knesset is indeed very
difficult for someone like me, who opposed the governing coalition very, very sharply. But since being elected to the Knesset, I
always say to myself that I serve in the Knesset not only to condemn the present situation,
but to try also to change it. Condemning the government is very, very important
of course, and very much needed in Israel, but it is not enough. We should use the possibilities we have as
Knesset members in order to press for concrete changes that will make the practical lives
of people in Israel a bit less difficult. In the years you’ve served in the Parliament,
despite fierce opposition from others, the Nakba Law was passed that silenced the commemoration
of the ethnic cleansing that took place of Palestinians in ’48, the boycott law, which
criminalized all those who support the boycott movement against Israel, BDS, and most recently,
the law of the nation which was passed, that seemed to enshrine, some would argue, an apartheid
political system in Israel. And many Palestinians believe that participating
in these elections now are no longer worthwhile, and one of your main partners has pulled out
of the coalition in the Joint List. And so, what does that portend for the future
political struggle, from your perspective in Israel, with this kind of splinter the
Joint List and all these recent laws that have been passed? I mean, what do you think unfolds here? Well, as you said, the Knesset unfortunately
passed very, very bad laws, but you should know that we were able to stop another set
of very, very difficult laws. So they were able to pass some laws, but they
failed to pass some other legislation which were also very dangerous. So being at the Knesset is not fruitless. We are struggling very hard. Not always we succeed, unfortunately. There are times like in the new law of Israel
as the nation-state of the Jewish people, where we failed, unfortunately. But we do not fail always. There are also times, many times, where we
are able, through cooperation with other forces, to stop difficult and very, very harmful legislation
being put forward by the right wing government in Israel. To call the Arab population in Israel to boycott
the elections is to give a big present to the Israeli right wing, because our population
in Israel is a minority. And this minority cannot really change the
situation by itself. However, it is not possible to change the
situation for the better in Israel without the political force of the Arabic minority
in Israel. Without the Arabic minority in Israel, the
right wing forces in Israel will be in permanent majority. Therefore, what we call the Arab population
in Israel is to come to vote en masse and to vote against the right wing, to support
us, to support other democratic forces in order to put their political weight behind
the forces of change in Israel. So just finally, very quickly here, so if
the party backs out of the Joint List, which it said it is doing, can the Joint List actually
reach the threshold to have members in parliament and be significant if that’s put in place? I do hope that the party that left the Joint
List will rejoin it. I think that, as I told you, they are four
different parties with huge differences between them. And therefore, it is very natural for each
party to try to improve its position vis a vis the other parties in the Joint List. I do hope that with the elections coming nearer,
all the forces, all the parties will reconsider. And they do hope that also this party of Dr.
Ahmed Tibi will rejoin the Joint List in order to make sure that no Arab and progressive
votes will be lost in these elections. But you’re not running again. You’re not standing for the Knesset. No, I’m not standing again for the Knesset. As I told you, I come out of the Knesset with
many, many achievements. But I’m really worried about the general
direction of Israeli society and I would like to focus on walking the ground, walk with
people to change the general direction of Israeli public opinion. I mean, all the focus on this very, very important
job, I would like not to spend all the time in the legislation and in the committees of
the Knesset. Well, Dov Hanin, it’s been a pleasure to
talk with you. I look forward to doing it again around the
elections and more. Thank you for your work and thank you for
joining us here at Real News today. Thank you very much. And I’m Marc Steiner here for The Real News
Network. Thank you all so much for watching. Take care.

About the author


  1. The Druze are very proud citizens of Israel but after Bibi fascist policies of occupation it is time to call it what it is, racism at its best. Also, the occupation has now become intractable and is now a very similar occupation like Nazi Germany.

  2. Boycott all Zionist Israeli fruits and vegetables, Ahava (stolen beauty products), sodastream, Sabra products (hummus for one), Caterpillar, HP, Airbnb, and Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

    BDS! Stop the JNF! End the Israeli occupation! Keep the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, where all other nations have theirs! Cut off all monetary and military funding to Israel from all countries! All countries and corporations, including their representatives and governors, and every imperialist U.S. politician, whether Democrat or Retropublican, who engage in support of apartheid, murdering, ethnic-cleansing, occupying, child-torturing, illegitimate, Zionist Israel are complicit in genocide!

    Zionist Israel is an invented state and Israelis are an invented people, neither of which existed before 1948!

    The maniac NuttyYahoo, his murdering IDF and Border Police must be tried at the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Just like the Nazis were tried at Nuremberg!

  3. Boycotting elections is counterproductive because when your not part of the process of government no national dialogue is needed regarding laws passed. The laws are decided behind closed doors and will be just rubber stamped in the parliament. The public who benefit can feign ignorance while enjoying their privilege. When laws have to be justified in parliament the point of the laws is made explicit and no one can then honestly pretend the law is anything but what it is. Make the f*ckers own it.

  4. Please, just stop this madness. Stop treat so-called "israel" as some kind of a real country. They're like ISIS, just jewish. ISIS also used victim card and real events(like U.S.' invations and even U.S. Police actions against Black people in the country), and also "wannabe religeous state to protect Muslims(which is total bs as we've seen). People are so mad exactly bcz of that – zionists/"israel" are as bad as any other such a group(ISIS, nazis etc.), but they get treatment different to others. This is nothing but pure racism. They'll never become normal. Never. It's better to annihilate them now than later, bcz later there'll be much more blood.

  5. I wonder if the List Party boycotted the elections whether Trumpet would name one of them the interim President next year like he did recently in Venezuela xD

  6. Excellent interview. Very informative and somewhat of a "cautionary tale" of possible biases within a Party.
    I think, our Libertarian Party, here, in America, is the closest to resembling The Joint List Party. Would I be correct? My political views, as pertains to USA and individual state issues, are aligned very much with Dov's. Neither the Independent Party nor The Tea Party can effectively stand alone. Nor, do I think, would those two Parties, if they were to be united in any way, have a formidable, combined strength to influence policy changes of far right or far left votes; not even if all three were to come together. However, perhaps if a Party was formed similar to a Joint List one, with RNC & DNC memberships, it could very well become the third Party that we, in the USA, so desperately needs right now: a Party that opposes current Foreign and domestic laws and policies that are polarizing and dangerous to our own Democracy and, that reinforce the current human rights violations which are rampant throughout the world, and, indeed, within the USA; any legislation that contributes support to those governments that should be sanctioned and boycotted because their own acts of corruption and human rights violations and non-inclusive laws & policies.

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