Monday, 28 January 2013

Interview with the Israeli Workers Party





From FSRN,
Another party running in today's elections is the Da'am Workers Party, a socialist-based party that focuses on economic inequality and social inclusion. In the 2009 elections, the Party failed to receive enough votes to send a representative to the Knesset, but it has received a surge of attention after the protests in 2011 that focused on housing and economic disparity. Members call the party the face of the new Left in Israel. Asma Agbarieh-Zahalka is the  leader of the Da'am Workers Party. If elected she would become one of the few Arab women in the Knesset. She joins us on the phone from the town of Umm al Fahem in Israel.
 The Da'am Workers Party gained over 3,000 votes in the recent Knesset elections and failed to gain a seat. That seems damming but a political party or association can still be influential without parliamentary representation. The Da'am Workers party is mainly active in building Arab and Israeli links within communities and organising workers into what it calls an independent Labour association to end workplace discrimination and the two tiered workforce.


Israel's main Trade Union association the General Federation of Labour in Israel or Histadrut  has just like the Trade Union movements of Britain, the United States and South Africa among others has actively contributed to the discrimination and disparity in living standards within Israel by restricting membership to Jews (membership became open to Arabs living within Israel's borders in 1959, migrant workers in 2009) and being a key supporter of what's been called Labour Zionism and the establishment of the state of Israel by employing many Jewish migrants from the 1920's onwards, which has caused problems for non Jewish workers in Israel. Histadrut also has very close ties to the Israeli Labor party the party that founded Israel and until 1977 every Israeli PM had some connection to the party and Histadrut. And the current Defence Minister responsible for the blockade of Gaza, the recent attacks on Gaza city and providing security for the Settlers is Ehud Barak whom led the Labor party not once but twice. Joining Histadrut will bring some protections but can also be considered acceptance of Zionist principles, which is very problematic since those principles include accepting Israel as a "Jewish" State which is tantamount to non Jews declaring and accepting second class citizenship. 

There's also the nagging problem that despite opening up membership the working conditions for Arab(Palestinian, Bedouin and Druze) and migrant workers  (especially Africans) remain far behind their Jewish colleagues. So an independent Labour association not attached to any Nationalist project would be very helpful to many sections of Israel's society.

And of course a political party based on the ethnic equality of class based Socialism would also solve the ethnic tensions within Israel. So long as the Israel-Palestine conflict remains a Nationalist struggle between Ethnic/cultural groups then the Arab population of Israel will always be seen as potential Fifth Columnists and will naturally be treated as such. Currently the suspicion of Arab Israeli's runs so deep that Yair Lepid leader of Yesh Atid the second largest party in the Knesset gave away the chance to become Prime Minister by turning down a proposed coalition with the Labor Party (third largest) and a coalition of minor Leftist and Arab political parties specifically because of the Arab members


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