Across the country in the next 24 hours, Israelis will go to the polls to choose their mayors and local councils. Once again, the Dimona Dispatch turned to every list of candidates in the running, and asked them to respond to a brief questionnaire, in order to flesh out their positions on an issue that is important to us. Only by comparing and contrasting the views of the various candidates can an electorate make informed decisions about who to choose as their representatives in local government.
In the last local elections, held in 2013, the Dispatch asked candidates about a health issue of vital importance: the chemical composition of Dimona’s drinking water. Not all participating parties took the time to answer our query, but half of them did. The Dispatch published all their answers in full, in print and online, so that our readers could decide for themselves who to cast their ballots for.
In the run-up to this year’s local elections, the Dispatch sent all 11 parties running for Dimona city council a list with three questions, all pertaining to an issue that deeply affects everyone who lives here, but especially affects the English-speaking community of Dimona: racial discrimination. Since none of the candidates have spoken out on this important issue of their own accord, we see it as our civic duty to press them on it, so that their opinions will be known to all, as a matter of public record.
The Dispatch regrets to inform our readers that this year, despite receiving a full week to answer our questions, and despite repeated attempts over multiple media to solicit their responses, not a single candidate for Dimona mayor or city council bothered to answer our survey.
That everyone of them ignored our questionnaire reflects very poorly upon the quality of these candidates. If they did not feel obliged to at least pay lip service to residents’ concerns about rampant racism during election season, it is unlikely in the extreme that they will do anything to allay those concerns – or any other concerns that residents might have – once the election season is over.
Only you can decide which candidate, if any, deserves your votes for Dimona mayor and city council. But whatever you decide, and whatever the outcome of the election, know that none of the candidates seem to care about whether you regularly experience racism in Dimona. Moreover, and sadder still, none of the candidates seem to care about whether or not you know that they don’t seem to care about it.
Below are the three questions submitted on 22 October 2018 to the 11 parties running for Dimona city council, translated into English.
The city is expanding eastward, in the direction of the residences of Bedouin citizens of the Alhawashla tribe. These folks are descendants of the Bedouins that lived here on their lands before Dimona was founded in the 1950’s. The Bedouins later claimed property rights over the lands they are now living on, but the state refused to register them as legal owners, and also refused to offer them other lands as an alternative. As the city expands in their direction, the state is demanding of those Bedouin families to evacuate the area immediately. In the opinion of your party, should Dimona accept these Bedouin families as our partners, and support their demand to own the land upon which they live?
By law, non-Jewish people have the right to live in the State of Israel, and establish places of business and places of worship here, as they see fit. Despite this, these rights are trampled in our city on occasion. As you recall, about a year and a half ago, a café in downtown Dimona was shuttered at the demand of residents who believed that the business owner was not a Jew, but a Christian. Do you intend to defend the ability of non-Jews to realize all of their rights in Dimona, including the rights to open a place of business or a place of worship? Or do you intend to stand in support of the residents that want to deny non-Jews these basic rights in Dimona?
Incidences of racism towards non-white and non-Jewish groups are a common occurrence in Dimona. Incitement to violence towards these groups, and even calls to genocide them, are seen and heard around town, even in front of schools and kindergartens. The racism is felt daily in the disparaging attitude that some residents of the city display towards those groups – but it also takes a bloody toll. As you recall, in 2015, a 17-year-old Dimona resident stabbed four complete strangers, only because they were Arabs. Do you intend to try to reduce the level of racism in Dimona, and if so, how?