Haneen Zoabi is an Arab Israeli member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. She was elected in 2009 as a member from the Balad Party. Balad is an Arab party that was formed in 1995 with the aim of “struggling to transform the state of Israel into a democracy for all its citizens.” In the West, this is a perfectly normal goal. But Israel’s Zionist ideology disqualifies it as a “Western” nation. Thus Balad’s aim is in direct opposition to the Zionist idea of Israel as a “Jewish state,” a concept that Ms Zoabi labels “inherently racist.”
Apparently, Haneen Zoabi is fearless. She actually lives her principles. She has been campaigning loudly and very publicly for full citizenship rights for Israel’s Palestinians. She has also actively opposed Israel’s settlement movement, occupation policies, and its siege of Gaza. That last effort led her to participate in the international flotilla that sought to break the Gaza siege in May of 2010. That was the time Israeli commandos attacked the Mavi Marmara in international waters, killing 9 Turkish activists who tried to resist the assault on their ship.
In an outright dictatorship, Ms Zoabi would be in jail or worse. And, given the direction of Israel’s political evolution, that still might be her fate.
However, as of now she is just the worst nightmare of an ethnocentric state, and a government pushing racist policies while trying to pretend it is a democracy. It is a nightmare for the Israel’s Zionist leadership because Zoabi, as a member of the Knesset, insists that if the Israeli Jews won’t allow full citizenship for non-Jews, as a real democracy must, then she is not going to let them pretend anymore. Yet pretense is all that is left of Israel’s international persona. If the “Jewish state” loses the ability to posture as “the only democracy in the Middle East,” the country’s reputation in the world is, as the saying goes, fit for the dust hole.
Think of it this way. Israel is the nation-state equivalent of Oscar Wilde’s fictional character Dorian Gray. Gray is a man who never seems to be anything but young, good-looking, and successful. However, hidden away in some closet there is an extraordinarily ugly and frightening portrait of him, and it is this portrait that ages and reflects the meanness and brutality of Gray’s true character. Haneen Zoabi has uncovered such a portrait of Israel and insists on going about showing everyone the state’s real characteristics. She wants the world to see the true picture. That is why the Israeli government is trying to destroy Haneen Zoabi.
The catalyst for the campaign against Zoabi was her presence on the Mavi Marmara in 2010. Not only was she on a ship attempting to bring humanitarian assistance to over 1.6 million Gazans living under an illegal Israeli embargo, but she was also an eyewitness to nine official Israeli acts of murder.
To the acts of collective punishment, the shelling and bombing of civilian neighborhoods, and the seemingly random murder of civilians by Israeli border snipers, can now be added a deadly attack on a civilian vessel in international waters. All of these actions are criminal under international law and they all easily fall into the category of state terrorism. However, in the Kafkaesque world of Zionism, it is Ms Zoabi who became the “terrorist.”
When, on 2 June 2010, she returned to the Knesset following the the Mavi Marmara incident and insisted on bearing witness to Israeli offenses, she was shouted down by her “outraged” fellow members of the Knesset, most of whom saw Zoabi as a traitor. Her efforts to describe what she had seen reduced the Knesset session to “pandemonium.” From that point Ms Zoabi received “hundreds of threats, by letters, by email, by phone call.” In July of 2011, while contesting statements being made by Prime Minister Netanyahu, she was ejected from the Knesset by the chamber’s Speaker who then suspended her from further participation based on a grossly exaggerated charge that she had assaulted one of the chamber’s ushers.
Meanwhile, members of the Prime Minister’s party, Likud, conspired to ban Ms Zoabi from running in the upcoming Israeli elections (scheduled for 22 January 2013). The Knesset’s Ethics Committee voted that Zoabi hadviolated Article 7A of Israel’s “Basic Law” which states that a candidate for or member of the Knesset, “cannot reject Israel as a Jewish and democratic state…or support armed combat by an enemy state or terror organization against the State of Israel.” Some Israelis claim that the group organizing the flotilla efforts to break the Gaza siege is a terrorist organization, but that is clearly nonsense. On the other hand, there can be little doubt that Ms Zoabi is shouting from the rooftops the blatant fact that “Israel as Jewish and democratic state” reflects a deep and tragic contradiction.
According to such luminaries of the Israeli right as MK Danny Danon, Ms Zoabi has “spit on the state.” She does not belong in the Knesset, according to Danon, “she belongs in Jail.” (Danon is also the politician who had the clever idea of inviting Glenn Beck, an incendiary right-wing American TV talk show personality, to address the Israeli parliament.)
Subsequently, Israel’s supreme court declared the banning of Haneen Zoabi was unconstitutional, but Danon has replied that he and his allies are ready with “plan B.” They will simply have the Knesset change the law so as to prevent future electoral campaigns by anyone like Zoabi.
Politicians with dictatorial leanings instinctively avoid their own reflection. They cannot admit the consequences of their own actions and policies and they cannot tolerate others who publicly expose those consequences. Like Dorian Gray, they restrict the ugly truth to some hidden closet. Yet, eventually, someone like Ms Zoabi comes along and takes up the role of truth-teller.
There is another issue that her efforts bring to light. It is that the interests of the state (understood here as a government) and the interests of the nation (the collective occupants of a country) may not always be the same. Governments most often represent cliques or classes or elites or ideologues, etc. Those in power, ruling in the interest of these smaller constituencies, simply assume that their own parochial interests stand for the “national interest.”
Ms Zoabi is insisting that the Israeli State cease identifying itself with the interest of a single constituency and start representing the interests of the nation as a whole. What this is all about, she says, are “the values, the humanistic, universalistic values of freedom, of equality, of justice.” But there is nothing “universalistic” about Zionism and so, for her efforts, she is castigated and threatened. Such is the state that Zionism has built.
Beginning on Wednesday and continuing through Saturday night, mobs of right-wing Jewish Israelis have attacked the neighborhoods of African immigrants in the southern part of the city of Tel Aviv, throwing stones and bottles at residents and looting shops.
According to an eyewitness report by a volunteer with the Hotline for Migrant Workers in Israel, “[a]fter a dose of racial incitement from the Members of Knesset who addressed them, Miri Regev, Danny Danon, Yariv Levin and Michael Ben-Ari, a handful of the protesters went on to attack Africans and stores owned by them in the Hatikva neighborhood. I arrived in the neighborhood with a camera to document what had happened.”
The eyewitness, identified as Elisabeth Tsurkov, said, “I saw a policeman protecting a group of Eritrean refugees after one of the family members was attacked with a glass bottle while carrying his son, who as a result was dropped to the ground…I saw the blood of a Sudanese refugee on the pavement after he was stoned by a group of Israelis chasing him. I saw a shop owned by an Eritrean refugee, which was looted after its storefront was broken.”
The string of attacks comes in the midst of increasing incitement against the non-white Israeli population, including indigenous Palestinian citizens of Israel and African immigrants into the country, by Israeli politicians and party leaders. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently stated that the African immigrants, many of whom are refugees from war-torn regions, “threaten Israel’s social fabric”, and called for the implementation of policies that would refuse them services, deny them entry, and force the deportation of many who are living in Israel already.
In Tsurkov’s account of the events of the last few days, she wrote, “Some [of the Israeli attackers] called the refugees ‘cockroaches’, a woman said they should be killed and exterminated because non-Jews should not exist in the land of Israel, another of the residents said the refugees’ heads need to be cut like chickens, others simply thought ‘they should be deported back to Sudan.’ The hatred was also directed at the ‘leftists’ whom the residents blamed for the encroachment of refugees in their neighborhood.”
The Hotline for Migrant Workers called on the Israeli government to take responsibility for the situation of migrant workers in Israel, and allow for a legal process for refugees to be allowed to seek asylum in the Jewish state – a status which is currently denied to non-Jews.
- Right-wing Israeli MPs whipped up Tel Aviv race riots: reports (theuglytruth.wordpress.com)
- Israel: Race riots and double standards (jeff-goodall.com)
Knesset to discuss bill authorising settlers’ seizure of Palestinian landIsrael’s Knesset (parliament) is due to hold a special session on Wednesday to discuss a bill which would authorise Jewish settlers to build on private Palestinian land, especially in the Migron settlement outpost and other such places. All Jewish settlements, “outposts” or not, are illegal under international law. That the Israeli parliament even gives time to debate such a law is a strong indication of the contempt in which it holds international laws and conventions, and the international community at large.
The parliamentary session will take place because MK Danny Danon, of the ruling Likud Party, has been able to collect the signatures of 25 MKs for this purpose; this is required during the parliament’s Passover recess.
The bill drafted by Danon proposes compensation for the Palestinian owners of land where settlements are to be built. This would cover dozens of families as such a law would give legitimacy to many settlement outposts.
The right-wing members of the Knesset are seeking the support for the bill from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He has announced his intention to strengthen Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.
According to Hebrew media sources, Danon’s efforts follow the Supreme Court decision to cancel an agreement between the Israeli government and the settlers in the Migron outpost which would require them to be re-housed somewhere else. Danon has also been motivated by the decision of Defence Minister Ehud Barak to evict Jewish settlers from a Palestinian house that they seized recently in Hebron.
“The Supreme Court is trying to prevent the government from working,” said Danon, “and we are trying to prevent the evacuation of Jews from their homes. We will not accept another court decision such as the one on Migron and we will not accept an evacuation process such as the one in Hebron.”
Arab MKs expect the Knesset’s summer session to witness a race by right-wing parties in the Knesset for laws supporting settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, including the illegal (even under Israeli law) outposts, especially in light of hints about early parliamentary elections.
- Jewish settlers stealing Palestinian water springs: UN (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli settlers storm into Palestinian home, occupy residence (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Settlers Install New Outpost Near Hebron (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Study: Israeli ‘state land’ illegally taken from West Bank (alethonews.wordpress.com)