In December 20021, the Knesset Central Elections Committee voted to bar two Arab parties from running in the elections to be held the following month, including the Ta'al list led by Ahmed Tibi. Then-Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein declared that because the leaders of these two parties had failed to adequately declare their support for a Jewish State of Israel, and because some of them had expressed qualified support for Palestinian groups engaged in violence during the Second Intifada, they were unfit to run for office in the government.
The Israeli Supreme Court later overturned that decision2, over the strenuous objections of the political right.
I only mention this because I ran across Tibi's name in the paper today3.
Note: MK stands for Member of the Knesset, Israel's parliamentary body.
MK Ahmed Tibi (Hadash), who took part in the demonstration, said the soldiers beat him, and singled him out with the intention of hurting him. "They moved toward me like an arrowhead. One of them reached me, punched me in the stomach, smiled and took off," Tibi said.
The demonstrators said the clash began after the soldiers threw gas grenades at the protesters. A few of the protesters, including Tibi, needed treatment for smoke inhalation.
"We wanted to have a quiet protest, but the soldiers must have been ordered to attack Arab MKs," Tibi said. He added that the soldiers beat Arab MKs "for sport."
Tibi called on Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin to take a stand and protect the Arab MKs.The commander of the armored company at the demonstration denied that Tibi was beaten. He said Tibi had been pushed, along with the other demonstrators in the front row, after they refused the soldiers' demand to move back. He denied that Tibi had been "marked" as a target.
Arab Israelis are not well-represented by the Israeli government, unsuprisingly. The Arab parties currently have 8 MKs, or about 6% of the total, and so far as I know it has always been taboo to invite the Arab MKs to join the ruling coalition. Arabs -- actually non-Jews, overwhelmingly of Arab descent since it is very hard for non-Jews to immigrate to Israel -- presently comprise somewhere around 20% of Israeli citizens4. Since the Arab MKs can hardly participate in the government, and since no broader political candidate can be viable absent full-throated adherence to Zionism, the Arab Israeli population seems to have little reason to show up at the polls at all.
So since 2001, the year the Second Intifada started, the year Barak failed to bring home a peace deal from Camp David and then ran for re-election against Sharon, they haven't.