ISRAELI Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition chief whip David Bitan set off a racism storm at the weekend as he echoed his master’s hostility to Arab citizens voting.
Asked about Mr Netanyahu’s election-day warning to Jews that Arabs were voting “in droves,” Mr Bitan went further: “I’d rather the Arabs didn’t go to the polls in droves and didn’t come to the polls at all.
“Ninety-five per cent of them vote for the Joint List that doesn’t represent Israeli Arabs but Palestinian interests,” he told a public meeting near Jerusalem.
Mr Netanyahu backtracked 18 months after his “Arabs beware” video, apologising to Arab citizens for his offensive comments and urging them to join Israeli society “en masse.”
Joint List leader Ayman Odeh, of the Communist Party’s Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash), said that Mr Bitan’s comments “prove that all this leadership has to offer is explicit racism and cheap populism.
“His pathetic daily comment expresses the Prime Minister’s fear of our growing political power.”
Fellow Joint List Knesset member Yousef Jabareen said: “Just imagine how the political system in France would respond if the coalition chief whip said that he didn’t want Jews to go to the polls.”
Isaac Herzog of the main parliamentary opposition Zionist Union accused Mr Bitan of urging removal of voting rights from minorities, “just as top anti-semites in Europe did in the past to the Jewish people.
“The disease of racism has metastasised in the heart of Israeli society and is embarrassing both right- and left-wing voters.”