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The Revolt of the B'Seder Arabs

"We don't have rights in this land; we have right on this land!"—MK Tibi



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Three days before the elections in Israel, the mainstream media concentrates its efforts on the "rise and rise" of Bennett against Netanyahu and the futile appeals to the public by the parties that Lieberman called "The Polish Trio." Everybody assumes that Netanyahu will be the next Prime Minister. Not surprisingly, the Jewish media ignore the real question, namely to which extent will the "B'seder Arabs" vote; if they arrive en masse, Netanyahu will find himself out of his cozy office.


Encounters between different cultures often lead to violent clashes. Yet, they also create fabulous foods and spiced-up idioms. "B'seder" is a Hebrew idiom literally meaning "in order;" it is used like the English "OK." "B'Seder Arabs" is an idiom that refers to Palestinians with Israeli Citizenship, in other words those who are "OK" with the State of Israel.

The map below shows the geographical distribution of "Israeli Arabs;" it follows definitions adopted by Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics; recently I analyzed its odd contradictions. Most of the people defined by it as such will oppose the category. Some of them—Circassians, for example—are non-Arab Muslims. Others are Arabs, but neither Palestinians nor Muslim, like the Druze. The majority of this group is Palestinian; many have families in the West Bank. They are substantial, making over 20% of Israel's population. If all of them voted, they could define 24 out of 120 seats in the Knesset. This is almost as much as Likud has in the current Knesset (27). Instead of 24 seats, in the current Knesset they have only 7 in Palestinian parties and another 3 (out of 4 the party already has) in Hadash, Israel's Communist party.


Za'atar Spice—mainly za'atar, sesame seeds and salt
Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean

MK Tibi in Baqa-Jatt

MK Tibi in Baqa-Jatt
Growing Up Palestinian: Israeli Occupation and the Intifada Generation

B'Seder but not OK

Their being citizens doesn't mean that they enjoy the same status and rights as their Jewish neighbors. Baqa-Jatt is a town established in 2003 through a merger of Baqa al-Gharbiyye and Jatt; it is within Israel's Haifa District and part of the area known as The Triangle. All of its more than 30,000 denizens are Palestinians. Its mayor is Yitzhak Wald. Don't try to refresh your Arabic in search of his name. He is Jewish; he was imposed as mayor by the Ministry of Interior. Israel doesn't have proper civilian cities; all are closely related to the army. Main Israeli cities are administered by former high ranking military officers; Ron Huldai in Tel Aviv is a good example. Moreover, strategic locations populated by non-Jews cannot choose their mayor; these are chosen by the ministry.

Yitzhak Wald is a bigot. He got publicity in 2008, during the Muslim Ramadan. On September 15, 2008, Yedioth Aharonot published the shameful event that took place when he invited denizens of the city to congratulate them on their Holy Month. One of the participants, Hassan Muwasi, said to Wald, “we appreciate that you are considerate and are sitting here without coffee or refreshments;” during this month Muslims fast during the day. Up to this point, everything looked friendly.

In a later interview to the newspaper, Muwasi said, "I also told him that in order to complete the good deed, instead of fasting until 5PM, the time at which he returns home, he should fast until 7PM in order to receive full God-given rewards. At this moment, one of the attendees told him jokingly that it is also good for the diet, and Yitzhak answered, 'you fast in order to diet? You come home in the evening and gulp like pigs.'" Wald acknowledged the event. This was an open and unacceptable insult; Wald cannot claim ignorance since pigs are impure animals in both Islam and Judaism. At the beginning of 2013, he is still the mayor of the people he despises. The Palestinians living in Baqa-Jatt may be "B'Seder Arabs," but certainly their treatment by their State is not OK. Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that most of them ban the State by no voting in the elections. Since they don't go to the army, their interaction with the Zionist entity is minimal.

The B'Seder Alternative

Yet, some of them think that the way to change the situation is working from within the Israeli political map. This means reaching the Knesset and attempting to change Israel's racist system by changing its laws. Very few of them join Jewish parties; most of them choose to run in a Palestinian one. I won't review their history since it is as lively as the Jewish extreme right (see On Musmus, a Forgotten Pharaoh, and Political Violence); to make sense of the apparently endless mergers and splits, one must look at the personal level. One of the main members of this group has been featured several times in this website, recently in Israeli Astronaut Denied Memorial. Knesset Member Ahmed Tibi visited the abovementioned Baqa-Jatt this week and spiced up his speech with a Hebrew word that all his listeners knew: "adishut," apathy.

His words sounded like nothing you will hear at a Jewish-Israeli elections speech. Iran, the West Bank, the Jewishness of the State, and the State's budget deficit were not mentioned. The topics he touched on were local, with the exception of the 100 yearly grants he had arranged for Palestinian-Israelis in Jordan. Beyond that, he spoke about connection to the electricity network, proper sewage, schools, work conditions, housing, industrial areas, public transport, unification of families, Arab universities and hospitals. In Israel, all these topics are decided in ethnic and religious terms. All Jewish towns have proper sewage; no Palestinian town has a working one. Only a few days ago, a Jewish mayor declared that "There would be no Arabic schools!" in his town, despite its 20% of Palestinian denizens. Tibi's message was: "Get out of your 'adishut' or nothing will change." He added, "We don't have rights in this land; we have right on this land!"

Israeli Arabs in Israel

"Israeli Arabs" in Israel. Definition bundles together several people, including non-Arabs

"B'Seder, but I won't vote"

He complained on Israeli media, mentioning that most of the Palestinian Knesset Members are highly active on social issues, a topic that is consuming Israel in the last couple of years yet, the Israeli media do not report on that. The establishment is interested in antagonizing its Palestinian citizens; if they become openly anti-Israeli, they won't vote, creating a more Jewish-oriented Knesset. Yet, this is a double-edged sword. At a certain point, Palestinian-Israelis will understand that they are closer to their brothers in the West Bank than to the Jewish elite mocking them. Three days before the elections, it seems that less than 45% of Palestinian-Israelis will bother to vote, to the extent that several lists may not cross the 2% threshold. This means gains to the Jewish parties.

Prime Minister Yizhak Rabin often used an idiom derived from "b'seder." He complained about the "Y'y'e b'seder," ("it-will-be in-order") Israeli spirit. "It will be OK," is the invariable Israeli answer to any problem, especially when the problem doesn't seem to have a solution. "It will be OK," Israelis say; "B'Seder, but I won't vote," Palestinians answered until the day they came out of their "adishut."

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