Labor officials acknowledged Erekat’s argument. “It’s more or less true.”
Ramallah, July 5 – Following the election of a yet another Israeli Jew as the new chairman of the country’s Labor Party, Palestinian leaders accused both the party and wider Israeli society of maintaining ethnic segregation aimed at denying Palestinians political and civil rights.
Saeb Erekat, a Fatah official loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who has served as the chief negotiator with Israel, spoke to reporters Tuesday night at the presidential compound in Ramallah, and characterized the selection of two Jews in a runoff to lead Labor as South-Africa-style Apartheid.
“Labor, the largest party that bills itself as favoring a negotiated two-state solution, the party that glories in its role in the Oslo peace process, has never chosen anyone but a Jew to lead it,” charged Erekat. “The racist ethos of the party, and the racism of the society it thus exposes, demonstrate where the fault lies in the failure of effort after effort to achieve a final-status agreement.”
Erekat called for international pressure on Israel and its political parties. “It is clear that without drastic measures from the international community we will forever be subject to the Apartheid occupation,” he pronounced. “Not a single Palestinian has ever been permitted to submit candidacy for Labor, let alone run for high political office in Israel on the party’s ticket.”
Labor officials acknowledged Erekat’s argument. “It’s more or less true,” admitted former Labor legislator Dalia Itzik. “Labor has made large strides in the realm of political equality over the decades, including the selection of Golda Meir as chairwoman, who became prime minister in the 1970’s, and I served as Acting President of the country for a time. But when it comes to eligibility to vote in the Labor primary, the rules of party exclude those who have not paid membership dues and registered their membership, a requirement that effectively excludes the Palestinians.”
She noted that the discriminatory nature of the requirement affects other minority groups. “We don’t allow any non-citizens to vote in our elections, and I mean national elections, not just party primaries,” she continued. “If you’re a Russian citizen, but not an Israeli citizen, you’re out of luck when it comes voting here. The same goes for citizens of Japan, Malaysia, Switzerland, Bolivia, Saudi Arabia, and literally hundreds of other countries: if you don’t hold Israeli citizenship, we don’t let you vote here. Of course we discriminate.”
Itzik also noted that she, as a non-Palestinian, cannot vote in Palestinian elections, but that fact alone is misleading, as Palestinians cannot vote in Palestinian elections either, having last held them in 2006, and thus Palestinians do not discriminate in that fashion against non-citizens.
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