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Arab Labor Members Threaten to Walk if Party Keeps the Name ‘Zionist Camp’

MK Raleb Majadla

MKs Yitzchak Herzog and Tzipi Livni can’t catch a break.

The two center-left politicians, who co-lead the Labor list this elecetion season, figured it would be a clever move to change the name of the Labor list to “The Zionist Camp.” The new brand projects national pride, and in a campaign that strives to draw as many votes as possible from Israel’s undecided center (there are always about 20 seats in that cluster), Labor didn’t think it should be so “laborish.”

But Jewish Home candidate Ronen Shoval filed an appeal on Thursday with the judge in charge of the Central Elections Committee, claiming the name is misleading the public—and to prove his case, he provided a litany of outright anti-Zionist statements from a few of the candidates occupying realistic slots on that list. Those included a call to change the “racist” national anthem Hatikvah, a call on mothers to refuse to allow their children to enlist in the IDF, and a statement from one list member confessing he identifies more as Palestinian than as Israeli.

The jury is out on that appeal, which may or may not convince the judge to order Labor to brand itself more accurately. But in the meantime, Labor is facing a more serious problem with its clever brand—from the inside, namely, its Arab party members. On Saturday, the Labor Arabs issued an ultimatum to Herzog: either he changes the name to something less offensive to them, or they’re telling their followers to vote for someone else.

Labor MK Raleb Majadla, an Arab, said, “We support the Labor party, not the Zionist Camp.”

He threatened to recommend to his voters to choose the newly assembled, Joint Arab List, and part with the Labor party forever.

It should be notes that the partnership between the various factions of the historic Labor party and Israel’s Arabs goes back to 1949. But while in the past Israeli Arabs did not have a problem with the Zionist message, or at least didn’t protest it—today things are different.

And so, around 7 weeks before election day, Labor, which has lost a seat in the polls and is running neck and neck with Netanyahu’s Likud, is being challenged by both the left and the right.

And capitulation to the pressure to change their brand to something like, “The Israeli Camp, ” as the Arab Labor members have suggested, is probably not in the cards.

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