ISRAEL - Jan. 30 - Arabs To Shun Barak.
The FT says the Israeli Arabs are set to boycott Barak in the Feb. 6 elections. Barak's Labour party is still hoping the Arab citizens will change their minds and turn out to vote a week today. They hope that by voting in large numbers, the Arabs might help to make Barak's defeat easier to bear. That, says Azmi Bishara, parliamentary deputy and head of the Arab Balad party, is not going to happen. The Arabs are no longer prepared to be taken for granted or to forgive Barak. "I support a boycott. Sharon is worse. But the boycott against Barak is political, not ideological". (The Arabs' main complaint against Barak is that he failed to react to the killing by Israeli police of 13 Israeli Arabs last October. The police had used live ammunition during demonstrations in the northern city of Nazareth. These were called in protest at the Israeli military's use of force against the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza when the intifada started on Sept. 28, 2000. The bullets, claim eye witnesses and Arab human rights activists, were aimed only at the Arab demonstrators, not at Jews who had taunted the Arabs). Bishara adds: "Barak, the left, the intellectuals, kept silent over those deaths. We were completely isolated". Since then, Arabs have been detained, some without trial, juveniles questioned without adults, and hospital doctors forced - under a court order initiated by the police - to hand over records of Arab patients they treated during the October riots. Barak is trying to make amends, supporting an inquiry into the killings. Last week he said he wanted to visit families of those killed and apologise. "Why didn't he apologise in October?" says Mohammed Zeidan, director of the Arab Association for Human Rights. "He half apologised now just when he realises he needs our vote. I support a boycott. Some Arabs will vote for Sharon out of revenge. Labour needs to be taught a lesson". "People (in the May 1999 elections) believed Barak might change things", said Zeidan. Barak's 1999 appeal was based not just on making peace but on reducing inequality and discrimination, opening up the civil service and public sector to Arabs, and equalising public funds for their municipalities. Even though the Arab parties together won 10 parliamentary seats, not one of then was made a minister. "Promises came to naught", says Bishara. "Barak's indifference last October showed how he dos not treat us the same as he would treat the Jewish citizens of Israel". Israeli Arab leaders admit they will be blamed by Labour if Barak loses heavily against Sharon. But they say it is time Arabs took a united stance. "We have to break the vicious circle. The Labour party thinks it can take us for granted even if they kill us. We cannot pass this attitude on to future generations". Aware of such ill-feeling, Barak has limited his visits to the Arab sector. (Indeed, so great is the disgust with Barak that Labour has not even used campaign posters depicting him. Instead, in Nazareth, Labour's posters show Sharon on a black background with a quotation - the colour of blood. It warns Arabs how a Sharon victory could lead to a repeat of 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes during the war that followed Israel's independence. Labour party activists admit such scaremongering has made little impact).
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|Publication:||APS Diplomat Recorder|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Feb 3, 2001|
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