Driven out of their homes and lands in 1949 when the United Nations recreated the state of Israel, the Palestinians are today one of the the largest and oldest bloc of refugees in the world.
Records of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in 2018 show the number of registered Palestinian refugees as some six million. That figure represented the minimum number of Palestinian refugees and constitute almost half of the Palestinians in the world (around 13 million).
According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, the ‘Arab’ population in 2019 was estimated at 1,890,000, representing 20.95% of the country’s population. The majority of these 1,890,000, identify themselves as Palestinian by nationality and Israeli by citizenship.
In the run-up to last week’s Israeli general election, these Israeli citizens of Palestinian descent watched in growing alarm the racist anti-Palestinine campaign launched by the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, who held out a threat of a leftist-Arab government, warning followers that ‘Arabs want to annihilate us all’ and were “stealing” the elections through rampant voter fraud.
Netanyahu’s racist fear-mongering is not new to Israelis of Palestinian descent. Though previously they (Israeli-Palestinians) viewed Israel’s election and playing a role in the selection of its Prime Minister with skepticism, in reaction to Netanyahu’s blatant racism, they decided to vote in their numbers and play a role in the selection of the prime minister. Their aim was to stop Prime Minister Netanyahu being re-elected as Israeli premier. They knew their numbers were insufficient to defeat him, but they could make it more difficult for him to win.
And this they achieved. Palestinian Israelis who make up a fifth of Israel’s population cast their ballots for ‘The Joint List’ -- a coalition of Palestinian-led political parties. The Joint List won 13 seats, making it the third largest political grouping in the Knesset. Opposition Jewish parties also received a small share of Palestinian votes.
Then surprisingly, the leadership of the ‘Joint List’, who have previously refused to participate in the selection of Israeli Prime Ministers (except in the case of PM Rabin), on the grounds that Israel’s right-wing political parties were no different from each other, unconditionally recommended that Israeli President Reuven Rivlin appoint Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White party, to form the next government.
A shocking move, in that no attempt was made to confront larger issues facing Israelis of Palestinian descent, like the revocation of laws discriminating against Israeli-Palestinians or demands for
No mention of arbitrary demolition of Palestinian homes, seizure of Palestinian lands, freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention and torture of civilian Palestinians, the provision of adequate water for drinking and agricultural purposes or an Israeli withdrawal from occupied Palestinian lands.
The aim of the ‘Joint List’ appears to be intervention to prevent the person of Netanyahu becoming Prime Minister at the expense of major issues affecting the Palestinian people
The Palestinian leadership of the ‘Joint List’ failed to recognise there was no real difference between Netanyah’s ‘Linkud’ party and Gantz’ Blue and White party. After all, Gantaz, a former army chief is on record threatening to bomb ‘Gaza back to the stone age’. The Guardian of September 25, 2019 also quoted him as saying he was willing to sit with partners who are Jewish and Zionist.
It is time for the Israeli-Palestinians to concentrate on issues central to their their problems:
-- Equality for All
-- Justice for All and an End to Military Occupation.
With Palestinians seemingly forgetting these core issues which brought them together during an earlier era, they should not be surprised if some of their longstanding international friends, who backed their cause lose sight of these core issues and lose interest in the Palestinian issue.
For instance recently we saw our own country -- Sri Lanka -- quick to condemn the recent drone attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities. But more recently, Sri Lanka had maintained a deathly silence regarding the near daily killing and attacks on Palestinian protesters demanding the right to return to their homelands.
Not long ago one of Sri Lanka’s past president’s was the head of the Sri Lanka-Palestine
But then, that was another president with the courage of his convictions.