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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

First pro-Israel Arab party formed

Four and a half years ago, I blogged a column by Caroline Glick that claimed that most 'Israeli Arabs' are actually pro-Israel. So why do they continue to send the likes of Ahmad Tibi and Hanin Zoabi to the Knesset? Because there were no pro-Israel Arab parties. Until now. 42-year old Aatef Karinaoui has founded a party called El Amal Lat’gir — “Hope for Change” - to run for the Knesset in the upcoming elections. Will he make it? I'm going to be very blunt: I hope he lives long enough to find out.
Karinaoui gives the impression of a man who believes his time has come. A 42-year-old resident of the Bedouin city of Rahat in the Negev, he is a traditional Muslim but does not consider himself religious. Though involved in politics for nearly two decades, and exceedingly busy preparing his Knesset campaign, he is soft-spoken and patient. In fact, when we recently spoke, in a cafe at Ben Gurion Airport, he repeatedly extended our chat to accommodate my questions — despite the nudging of his staff. And his anger at Israeli Arab politicians, who he says cultivate the division between Jewish and Arab Israelis, clearly runs deep.
“All the bad things they say about Israel and its supposed ill-treatment of Arabs is a lie, a bald-faced lie,” he says intently, just moments after we’ve sat down. “Arab members of Knesset are setting a fire. They feed off of the politics of division and don’t represent the Arab public. The Arab Knesset members do nothing to educate them or advance their situation… But [at present] there is no alternative to the current leadership.”
By forming El Amal Lat’gir, which he says is loyal to Israel and concerned exclusively with social matters, Karinaoui aims to provide that alternative.
Karinaoui, who is married with five children (including a daughter currently on a national service program), is the chairman of the nonprofit organization Social Equality and National Service in the Arab Sector, which encourages Arabs to shoulder a share of the national service burden. He’s also in charge of operating computer centers in Arab cities throughout Israel as part of the Finance Ministry’s Lehava project, whose goal is to “narrow the digital gap” by providing access to the Internet in lower-income areas of the country.
“We don’t need the Arab members of Knesset to obsess over marginal matters and foreign affairs as they’ve been doing,” he declares. Arab MK Hanin Zoabi participated in the May 2010 Mavi Marmara bid to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza, for instance, while her colleague Ibrahim Saroor last year denounced the American “murder” of Osama bin Laden.
“We have real, pressing concerns -– 15 people living in a single house, land issues, education problems,” says Karinaoui. “We have plenty to deal with. But [Arab MKs] distance us from the mainstream and don’t want progress. Their leadership is the real failure.”
Read the whole thing.  I think he's a breath of fresh air. But I fear what the Islamists might do to him. Especially if he actually wins.

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At 6:58 PM, Blogger Batya said...

Maybe that's the guy I heard on the news. It jives with my experiences.


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