The United Arab List (A political party drawn from Israeli Arabs citizens standing for the Knesset in the forthcoming Israeli election.) is a merger of four Israeli Arab Knesset factions that run the gamut from communists to extreme Islamists. If this list wins the 12 seats surveys say it will win, the Knesset will play host to a powerful political faction that takes order and money from Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas) is headed by Ayman Odeh, though he is far less known than the outspoken Haneen Zoabi, who has made a career of cheerleading for the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah.
But a revealing interview in Al-Monitor showed that Odeh is no less dangerous than his more controversial underling. Odeh, who promises to fight against corruption, racism and discrimination - all code words for a serious anti-Israel platform - is the new kid in town who will further inflame and agitate already tense Israeli nerves.
This Arab Christian lawyer from Haifa has declared himself an enemy of Zionism, and is in all likelihood up to no good.
A little known fact is that a large percentage, perhaps a majority, of Israeli Arabs do not share the views of their Knesset representatives. At least that’s what Mahmoud Nujidat (pictured) and Atef Alkernawi, two Bedouins from Israel’s south, told me.
Meeting with Nujidat was a breath of fresh air. Sick and tired of the old guard, whom he views as having done nothing to improve the lives of Israeli Arabs, Nujidat has created a new party, Hope for Change, that calls for the nation’s Arabs to integrate with Jewish society.
Nujidat, a devout Muslim who twice made the pilgrimage to Mecca, hopes for his children to love and integrate with their Jewish neighbors.
“We can’t live in the same home without cooperating with one another,” he insists. “We can no longer fight against each other. Enough. It just can not be that we will educate an entire generation for alienation and hate.”
Instead, Nujidat wants to see Arabs take on the mantle of loyal citizens of the State of Israel. As far as he is concerned, Israel is his home, and like in any home, husband and wife must find the way to live in peace and harmony.
Hope for Change is not only about good relationships between Jews and Arabs, it is also about hope and change for Arab women. Any society, says Nujidat, is built upon educated and supportive wives. Improving conditions for women, he argues, will be the beginning of local Arabs’ success. “When a woman is educated, works and adds to the family’s income she honors herself and her husband.”
Above all, Nujidat believes that the values of Jews and Arabs should not be different. “We all have the same faith,” he asserts. “We have one God whom we believe in. I don’t understand how we managed to miss it. How we led ourselves to dark corners.”
The present Arab leadership, he says, are benefiting from hostility and animosity. They thrive upon hate. Hope for Change wants to change that. Nujidat and those supporting him want to live in a country where people love one another.
It is striking how different this message is from that of Odeh the Christian.
Sadly, however, the positive voice of Hope for Change that represents many Israeli Arabs is drowned out by the clamor of inciting rhetoric that, if given the chance, will frustrate any hope for peace.