On the occasion of launching its new Israel Studies Program
Mada al-Carmel held a symposium on:
Readings of the 2013 Israeli Parliamentary Elections
On March 12, 2013, Mada al-Carmel—Arab Center for Applied Social Research launched the “Israel Studies Program,” specializing in the study of Israeli society and politics. Mada al-Carmel held a conference for the occasion on the subject of: “Readings of the 2013 Israel Parliamentary Elections.”
Professor Nadim Rouhana, Director of Mada al-Carmel, opened the conference. He explained the new program’s purpose: “We are filling a void in Israel studies as undertaken by Palestinians, the Arab world, and international scholarship, which we believe should reach a level equal to Israelis’ own studies of themselves. The program aims to attain a different conception of Israeli society and politics that requires positioning ideas completely outside the Zionism framework to regard Zionism as a settler-colonial project, whose understanding is essential to understanding the nature of Israeli society, politics, and social processes.”
The first session of the conference was convened under the title, “How can we understand Israeli society in light of the results of the recent election?” Mohannad Mustafa, a researcher and lecturer in political science, opened the session with a lecture on: “Critical readings of the right and left in the last Israeli elections.” He discussed how in the recent election, boundaries separating the right, middle, and left in Israeli society disappeared, making the political spectrum no longer an effective theoretical tool for analyzing Israel’s political landscape and voting patterns.
Political science professor Amal Jamal from Tel Aviv University spoke next on the ways the results of the elections reflect deep transformations in Israeli society and a return of Ashkenazi elites to governance, who are advancing a new ideological policy that integrates neo-liberal economic ideas, political extremism, and attempts to redefine the common good for the Jewish community, one that publically excludes the Arab community. This new ideology challenges old approaches of the fading traditions of the Ashkenazi elite.
This session concluded with a talk by journalist Antoine Shalhat. Shalhat analyzed projections for how the results of the Israeli elections will affect relations with Palestinians. Shalhat said, “The legacy of Oslo has been the outline of the Israeli governments for their relationship with the Palestinian Authority, and the coming government will be no exception. None of the Zionist bloc in Parliament, except the Jewish Home (Habayit Hayehudi) and Hatnuah presented any serious or new plans regarding future Israeli-Palestinian relations.”
The second session of the conference addressed possible explanations for Arab voting patterns. This session was run by researcher Areej Sabbagh-Khoury, coordinator of the Political Participation Project at Mada al-Carmel. Researcher Mtanes Shihadeh, coordinator of the Israel Studies Program at Mada al-Carmel, began by presenting an analysis of a public opinion poll on the recent parliamentary elections conducted by Mada al-Carmel. Shihadeh explained the voting for Arab parties as protest voting. He claimed that votes for Arab parties are driven by the nationalist role they play, rather by their work on economic and other day-to-day issues. Ms. Manal Shalabi, a doctoral candidate of political science at Bar-Ilan University, gave additional explanations for Arab voting patterns, among them a feeling of fear and the future of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Shalabi revealed a prominent result of the poll: a stark contradiction within the attitudes of Arab voters. Respondents expressed a low appreciation for the work of the parliament on the one hand and a belief in the importance of the presence of Arabs in the Israeli Knesset on the other.
This session concluded with journalist Wadia Awawdi, who raised the question of how local Arab news and media influenced Arab voting patterns. Awawdi said that the Arab media generally contributed to diluting the election campaign, reducing the level of debate and competition among the parties. On the other hand, the Arab media did not exclude the prime minister and other leaders of Zionist parties, but gave them a stage. Some media sources, especially “Radio al-Shams” and Arab newspapers, tried to urge Arab citizens to vote for Arab parties and play a necessary role. Although this is not the job of the press, these news outlets put themselves out there to gain votes for the Arab lists.