In his victory speech, Joe Biden, the President-Elect of the United States, did not forget to thank the ones to whom he owed his victory – his black supporters. Pounding on the podium, he said “You’ve always had my back and I’ll have yours.” In addition to Georgia, which we’ll discuss later, black voters were the key to flipping the swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin from red to blue. In these states’ major cities, Philadelphia, Detroit and Milwaukee, they came out in droves to oust a racist president who relied on the support of white supremacy groups. The fact that Biden chose Kamala Harris, a senator of Jamaican and Indian descent, as his vice president, was recognition of the role played by black and minority voters, and especially black women, in gaining him the nomination and then in the mass mobilization that brought him 79 million votes. This was by far the highest number of votes ever won by a presidential candidate.
The roots of Biden’s victory lie in America’s Deep South. Veteran Congressman Jim Clyburn, one of the heroes of Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement, played a key role in this regard. When Biden lagged behind Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries and his campaign appeared all but over, it was Jim Clyburn who threw his full weight and that of the “black movement” behind Biden in the South Carolina primary. Faced with the sweeping support of blacks for Biden, and the need to overthrow Trump, the left wing led by Sanders also rallied in Biden’s favor, forming a broad coalition that gave him a distinct advantage, despite the fact that Trump increased his number of votes from the 2016 election.
The key figure in this election is undoubtedly Stacey Abrams, a 46-year-old African-American woman who served in Georgia’s House of Representatives and brought about an incredible electoral change in a state that has not gone Democratic in a presidential election since 1992. This change requires explanation. Stacey Abrams ran for governor of Georgia in 2018 and narrowly failed. In the United States, voting is not an automatic right: every citizen must register and meet the requirements for doing so. Although blacks have the de jure right to vote and be protected by the federal government, each individual state sets its own election rules, which include voter registration. Thus, the various states, including many of the southern states that supported slavery during the Civil War, have created all sorts of regulations and laws aimed at effectively preventing black citizens from exercising their right to vote. To address this issue, Stacey Abrams set up an organization whose main goal was to help the large number of black voters overcome the obstacles in registering. 800,000 new black voters in the state of Georgia joined the voter list and tipped the scales in favor of Biden.
In 1992, something similar happened in Israel: a government was formed thanks to Arab votes. The Labor Party, led by Yitzhak Rabin, beat the Likud, led by Yitzhak Shamir. The five Arab Knesset seats were added to the 56 seats of the Left’s Labor and Meretz, allowing Rabin to create a bloc of 61 and form a government. This was the first and last time a government was formed by relying on Arabs. The reason is simple: Rabin paid for it with his life. Rabin’s sin was that he passed the Oslo Accords in the Knesset with the help of the five Arab votes. Thus he agreed to hand over parts of the “homeland,” even though there was no “Jewish majority” for this in the Knesset. The path from delegitimizing this move to dubbing Rabin a traitor to murdering him was short. The writing was on every wall in Israel, and the assassin, Yigal Amir, carried it out.
Since then, the Arab voice has been outcast. While the Arab citizen is theoretically equal in rights, in practice his vote is void because he is thought to be serving the enemy. “Bibi or Tibi” has become the favored slogan of Netanyahu, who does everything to delegitimize the Arab voter. In a recent election he urged his supporters to go vote, claiming the Arabs are “flocking to the polls in droves,” and after the election he raised the cry that the opposition would call on the Arabs to form a government. This is how Netanyahu has been trolling the Israeli public for more than two decades, mostly as head of government. The opposition, whether led by Benny Gantz or Yair Lapid, is pushed into a corner each time, obligated to prove loyalty to the state by not relying on the Arabs. Today, after Bibi continues to rule together with Gantz, Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon, who has utterly rejected reliance on Arab votes, declares that he is willing to rely on them “for only one issue” – to overthrow Bibi, after which he will form an Arab-free coalition.
From here back to Trump. He was defeated in 2020 by the one he dubbed “Sleepy Joe.” However, he refuses to acknowledge the results and claims more than two weeks after Election Day that the election was stolen from him. The reason resembles the argument of the Israeli Right. Biden’s victory is illegitimate because the votes that gave it to him are illegitimate. In the same victory speech in which he thanked the black voters, Biden listed the components of the broad coalition that stood behind him: “Democrats, Republicans, independents, progressives, moderates, conservatives, young, old, urban, suburban, rural, gay, straight, transgender, white, Latino, Asian, Native American. I mean it. And especially those moments when this campaign was at its lowest ebb, the African American community stood up again for me.” Even if Trump and his supporters don’t say so out loud, this coalition is not American enough for them, not white enough, not patriotic enough, and it poses a direct threat to white hegemony, which is losing its majority in the face of changing demographics. That’s why Trump’s electorate believes in his conspiracy theories and sees Biden voters as election thieves.
It is no coincidence that Trump and Bibi have become such close allies. They both espouse the same racist ideology and know how to manipulate the fears of the masses, whether the whites in the United States or the Jewish majority in Israel. The difference, though, is that while the Left in the United States embraces the black movement and adopts the Black Lives Matter slogan, the Israeli Left is consumed by its primordial fear of losing the Jewish majority, even while understanding that the price for this is continued life in Netanyahu’s shadow. The Israeli Left hates Netanyahu, but is afraid of making common cause with the Arabs. It knows that without them it has no chance of winning, just as the American Left knows that without the support of blacks, the Right cannot be defeated. And so the Israeli Left is trying to overthrow Netanyahu without the Arabs, and to maintain a state that is both Jewish and democratic. In other words it wants the impossible, and thus splits and crumbles, uniting each time behind a retired general, again collapsing on Election Day in the face of a cohesive right-wing bloc that has internalized the rules of the political game.
Confronting the helplessness of the Left is the Arab Joint List. It remains out of the political game, and its ineffectiveness is emphasized as its number of seats increases. If the black movement in the U.S. sees itself as a legitimate part and leader of American society, and while Barack Obama has twice been elected president, Arab leadership remains sectoral and inward-looking. Moreover, its impact on Arab society is nil. While cadres like Stacey Abrams, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jamaal Bowman, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar lead the progressive wing of the Democratic Party on the basis of a left-wing socioeconomic program, Arab parties remain confined within the national rhetoric and without a universal social program that will allow them to lead all of Israeli society. As long as the national division continues to define Israeli politics, there will be no room for an Israeli Biden.