Netanyahu owes Israeli Arabs an apology and more

A mosque in Akka, Israel. Akka (also called Akko in Hebrew) is a coastal city in Northern Israel. About 25% of its population is Arab.
A mosque in Akka, Israel. Akka (also called Akko in Hebrew) is a coastal city in Northern Israel. About 25% of its population is Arab.

The Likud party has admitted being involved in using hidden cameras (estimated at 1,200) at polling stations on Election Day, and Israel’s Central Elections Committee called this activity “a violation of election law”. A public relations firm that works for the Likud took credit for “placing hidden cameras at polling stations in Arab towns on Election Day”. Israeli police confiscated dozens of the cameras.

These are the publicly known facts. In addition, it has been reported that the public relations firm in question, “boasted that it was responsible for reduced turnout among Arab Israeli voters”. Meretz lawmaker Michal Rozin called on Israel’s Attorney General to launch a probe into this matter. Rozin wrote, “The Likud attempted to deter voters in the Arab community from fulfilling their democratic right”.

If it is proven that the Likud party attempted to intimidate Israeli Arabs into not voting, the legitimacy of the election results could be at question, but even if there was no attempt at voter suppression, the Likud party still targeted Israeli Arabs using illegal means.

The right to vote is one of the most important rights in a democracy, and if some Israeli Arabs did not vote due to the Likud party’s actions, this is a serious matter that Israel’s leadership should not take lightly. Yet, the reaction of Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was dismissive, saying that, “there should be cameras everywhere in order to ensure a “kosher” voting process”.

If there is a need for better monitoring due to alleged past violations, the government of Israel, of which Netanyahu is the head, should explain why the Central Elections Committee has not taken action, and why an army of Likud vigilantes took action instead.

Since the Likud party has an obvious stake in the election, it is a blatant conflict of interest for them to try to play the role of enforcer, especially that the methods they used are illegal. And if they were also trying to prevent some segments of the population from voting, then their crime is much worse.

No country is perfect. The most democratic countries in the world occasionally experience attempts at voter suppression. However, in a truly democratic country, such attempts are taken very seriously.

Israel’s Attorney General must investigate and must take appropriate action based on the findings, but it is already very clear that the Likud party was involved in widespread illegal activity that, at the very least, appeared to be an attempt to rob Israeli Arabs of their right to vote. Therefore, the Likud, starting with the Prime Minister himself, should recognize fault, should apologize, should promise to cooperate with any investigation, and should make every effort to ensure that such incidents do not occur again in the future.

Anything less than this would tell the world that Israel’s leading party does not care much about democracy, at least not when it comes to its Arab minority.

About the Author
Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Arab origin who lived in Lebanon until 1984, including during 10 years of civil war. Fred supports Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, and he supports a liberal and democratic Middle East where all religions and nationalities, including Palestinians, can co-exist in peace with each other and with Israel, and where human rights are respected. Fred is an atheist, a social liberal, and an advocate of equal rights for LGBT people everywhere. Fred Maroun writes for Gatestone Institute.
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