Monday, June 27, 2005

The largest constituency in Israel's Labor Party...

Hint, it's not the kibbutz movement

From the National Committee for Labor Israel

For the first time in the history of the Labor Party, Arab members have become its largest constituency.

According to membership poll data the Arab constituency is approximately 22 percent of the Party’s members, while the rate of kibbutz members, traditionally a prominent Labor constituency, dropped from 16 to 10 percent. This shift is expected to have a crucial influence on the party's primaries.

The dramatic increase in the Arab constituency could benefit chairmanship candidate Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, who drew 14,000 Arab members to participate in the census. Matan Vilnai and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, also candidates for the Party’s top position, are likely to suffer from the diminishing constituency of kibbutz members, their major support group.

According to the new party census, some 21,500 Arabs signed up as members, compared with some 14,600 in 2002 who were then approximately 13 percent of the total. This reflects a sharp rise of 47 percent in Arab members.

This was probably the result of massive efforts by Ben-Eliezer and Histadrut chief Amir Peretz, also a chairmanship candidate, to sign up Arab members. At the same time the constituency of the kibbutz sector diminished significantly. So far, fewer than 10,000 members signed, compared with 17,629 in 2002, when they formed approximately 16 percent of the total number of party members.

A column (off-line) in the Sept-Oct issue of Jewish Currents discussed polling done by Professor Sammy Smooha provides some background for this surprising development.
there has actually been a considerable moderation of "militant stands" in the Arab population over time. In the current study, a total of only 3.1 percent of Arabs supported violence, as opposed to 17.9 percent in 1976 (8 percent in 1988, 5.4 percent in 2002). A total of 54.9 percent said they feel closer to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, while 45.1 percent /" said they feel closer to Jews in Israel; in 2002, these numbers were 70 and 30 percent, respectively. In 1985, 47.1 percent responded that they were anti-Zionist. Now this statistic stands at 20 percent, with 78.8 percent responding that they are non-Zionists.

According to the latest index, 90 percent of Arab citizens now recognize Israel's right to exist, and most want to be integrated into Israeli society; 67.5 percent would be willing to live in a Jewish neighborhood, and 80 percent would like to enjoy parks and share swimming pools with Jews. Only 13.4 percent would be willing to move to a Palestinian state. Almost 75 percent support the return of Palestinian refugees only to the territories, and 65.2 percent agree with the statement, "despite its disadvantages, the government of Israel is democratic also toward its Arab citizens."
There is, of course, still much work that must be done to achieve political, economic and social equality for Israel's Arab citizens, but isn't it way past time that the libel of Israel being an apartheid state is rejected as wingnuttery if not an expression of outright bigotry.

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