By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
It was the talk of the town. “Can you believe Avraham Burg went to a Hadash meeting on Shabbat?” Everyone in the media business was talking about it and many were non-plussed. “How can he violate Shabbat, he claimed it was pikuach nefesh, or ‘saving a life.'” Avraham Burg wears a kipah, so the theory was that he is an Orthodox Jew; which he appeared to be when he was a former speaker of the Knesset and former Jewish Agency chief. But he told reporters “I left the Jewish national space because it became jingoistic, and I didn’t come all the way here just to connect with [Arab] jingoism.”
If you fell for the Burg trap and focused on this you were hoodwinked. It was a neat little distraction, perhaps calculated even, to make us all talk about Mr. Burg with his kipah and forget the 20% of the public, the Arab voters, that this meeting was really about. In a sense Burg colonized the Arab narrative by attending and made all the talk about him, even if it was unwittingly.
What really happened at the Hadash meeting was that at 10:50 P.M. Hadash votes in favor of joint Arab elections ticket with the other Arab parties, Balad and Ra’am-Ta’al (United Arab List). As if to symbolize what was happening, The leader of United Arab List, Ahmed Tibi, was at the Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount) holding a Palestinian flag and celebrating the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed, known in Arabic as Mawlid al-Nabawi.
The Hadash decision to open negotiations to run on the joint ticket mandated the ticket have Jews and Arabs on it; and women. It is interesting they demanded women be on the ticket, given the fact that Hadash does not have women representation in the Knesset. But as Nabila Espanioly told me in an interview in November, she was scheduled to replace a Hadash MK as part of a rotation to insure female representation. Balad is the one Arab party that has had a woman on its slate for half a decade; the indefatigable Haneen Zoabi (who I also interviewed recently). Mandating a Jewish member of the slate keeps up the mission of Hadash to be a join Arab-Jewish party true to its socialist-communist roots.
So what was Burg doing in Nazareth. According to a report by Elie Leshem at TOI: “Burg, who enrolled as a delegate, said that he would support Hadash in the upcoming elections and urged the party to remain distinct from the two nationalist Arab parties and promote a ‘powerful campaign by a Jewish-Arab list.'” That’s what you missed also, in worrying about the color of Burg’s kipah and “how could a former Jewish Agency head be at a Hadash meeting.” Yawn, that’s not the issue here.
So here we have Burg suddenly deciding he wants to enter politics with Hadash. Ynet said he was still considering it. So here you have two Arab parties and one half Arab party uniting in a grand coalition, and one man who is seemingly stirring the pot; trying to drag Hadash back towards Meretz. Shouldn’t this annoy the Arab public, to find that a party they voted for years and year and suddenly to have an outsider come along to poach its votes and decision making?
Will the Jewish vote for Hadash, which has been burgeoning of late, run for the exits when it joins with Balad and Tibi, who are unpalatable to many on the extreme left even? It remains to be seen if an unwieldy coalition can be formed; but what you should be keeping your eye on is the 20% of the electorate and their political choices and parties; not the one guy who “violated Shabbat.” He is inconsequential.