A few weeks ago, our Power to Israel movement launched campaign signs on buses and billboards. We used a number of words in Arabic that we thought the Arabs in Israel were familiar with: “taxes,” “border,” “planning and construction laws,” “traffic laws,” and “loyalty,” and we stated that “without responsibilities you have no rights,” meaning that if Arabs don’t obey state laws, they shouldn’t claim any rights either.
A number of radical leftists approached the chairman of the Central Election Committee, Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, and showed him a photo of a bus ad that read, in large Arabic letters: “Fidelity,” and below that: “Without responsibilities you have no rights – Power to Israel.” They claimed that the publication was racist and offensive and demanded to disqualify the campaign. Justice Rubinstein approved their claim.
Beyond the legal questions (the Attorney General believes that the chairman of the Election Committee lacks the authority to intervene in outdoor advertising, and may only disqualify propaganda broadcasts on radio and television), Justice Rubinstein’s decision is highly problematic.
The Tax Authority data show that the rate of income tax payments for Israeli Arabs is far lower than their share in the population. The gap in Social Security data is even more extreme, even when compared with Jewish populations of similar socioeconomic segment. It is also well known that the rates of municipal tax collection in Arab communities are minuscule.
However, the representation of Arabs in the prison population is twice their proportion in the population at large and the proportion of Arabs involved in road fatalities is similarly high. The facts exist and are well know, but Justice Rubinstein decided that saying it in an election campaign, and in Arabic – amounts to racism
Power to Israel intends to enact in the next Knesset the “Law of the Hebrew language,” written by Ruth Gavison, the former chairperson of the Association for Civil Rights. The law will determine the status of Hebrew as the only official language in Israel. But until the law is enacted — Arabic is Israel’s other official language. It is difficult to understand the justice’s determination that the prominent use of this language indicates that we address Arabs and that it is racist. If the very use of an official language in Israel in an election campaign is racist – what remains of the freedom of speech the left is so proud of? Does it cover speech that contradicts the left’s position?
It may be the conceptual difference between strength and power. Israel had the strength to topple Hamas in operation Pillar of Defense, but it lacked the determination and the moral conviction to do it. Tens of thousands of illegal homes are being built by Israeli Arabs in the Negev, in Galilee and in Jerusalem. Israeli police have enough power to enforce the law equally, but the government has no inner strength and determination to instruct them to do so.
To that end, we launched Power to Israel, led by myself and by MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari. Together we will empower the national camp.