Israel’s 20-percent Arab minority has been voting today in national elections. Men and women in Arab and mixed Jewish-Arab towns and villages began casting their votes when polling stations opened at 7 a.m.
Four Arab parties are running in the general election, along with one joint Arab-Jewish party (Hadash). Additionally, all the major parties have Arab and/or Druze candidates on their slates – including those on the political right.
Voter turnout among Israeli-Arabs is traditionally lower than that among the Jewish population – although the Jewish vote is also in decline. Voter turnout is generally low in the Arab world. In Kuwait, voter turnout stood at 40.3 percent in the December 2012 elections there. Turnout in Jordan has averaged 51.8 percent since 1949.
The Israeli-Arab parties have been using their share of the government-sponsored TV and radio ad time to urge the 1.6 million strong Arab sector to vote.
Among them is the Daam workers’ party, headed by Asma Aghbarieh-Zahalka. She presents herself as a representative of all Israelis. “I have a vision and it wasn’t clear to people—to talk about Jews and Arabs, about socialism, social justice. They thought I was dreaming, that all Arabs hate Jews and all Jews hate Arabs. And I know that’s not true,” she said in a recent interview.
This idea of Arabs and Jews working together in the political arena and beyond is also picked up by Nadia Hilou, a former MP with the Labor party who is running once again on the Labor ticket today.
She has traveled the length and breadth of the country encouraging Arabs to vote, arguing that choosing Labor is the only way to affect change.
“If every one of us would vote it will help to switch the current government and restore hope for a better common future for all of us: between Arabs and Jews, and for the Arab community and the citizens at large,” she said.