|Awad Abdel Fattah|
By Awad Abdelfattah
On the eve of the 2009 Knesset elections, as I stepped off a platform following a political debate, an Israeli journalist approached me. “Is it true that you don’t vote,” she asked, “even though you are secretary general of a party that takes part in elections?”
I smiled. She was wrong – or rather her information was out of date. But at least she alluded to something that few Israeli Jews are aware of. For a Palestinian democrat and nationalist, participating in the Israeli Knesset is an agonizing compromise with one’s principles. I have never envied the Arab Knesset members from my own party, Balad, who are trying to promote a democratic and humanist vision for those who live in Palestine/Israel.
All of this has been underscored to me in recent days by the vilification of one of our legislators, Haneen Zoabi, since three Israeli teenagers went missing on June 12. She has been misquoted, her comments misrepresented and her real arguments ignored. As a result, she faces death threats and widespread incitement from Jewish legislators and the Israeli media.
Before we established our party in the mid-1990s, most of the founders of Balad – or the National Democratic Assembly, as it is known in English – had to undergo a long and traumatic intellectual journey. The question before us was whether we could best effect change by engaging with the existing political system or by remaining outside it, focusing on our grass-roots activity.
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