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.
Haneen Zoabi, an MK from the Balad party, speaks to Elsa Rassbach about Land Day and her relationship as a Palestinian to Zionism and citizenship.
Since the 1980s, Palestinians have marked every March 30 with protests to celebrate Land Day. The day commemorates the first widespread struggle of Arab Israelis against processes of land confiscation intended to create Jewish majorities in certain communities. The marches and general strikes began in the Galilee in 1976, and resulted in the killings of six unarmed Arab citizens of Israel. Solidarity protests spread to the occupied West Bank, Gaza and the refugee camps in Lebanon. Since then, the day has marked the first common struggle for a Palestinian national cause following the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, an event Palestinians call the Nakba. This year on Land Day, worldwide Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activities will take place against Israeli policies, as well as the Global March to Jerusalem, which will call attention to the continuing Judaization and ethnic cleansing in the city that was supposed to be the multi-ethnic, multi-religious capital of a future Palestinian state.
Haneen Zoabi, 43, became a Knesset member in 2009, as the first Palestinian woman elected on an Arab party’s list. She is a member of the Balad party, which seeks to transform Israel into a democracy for all of its citizens, irrespective of national, ethnic or religious identity. Zoabi was born in Nazareth to a Muslim family. In 2010, she participated in the Gaza flotilla on board the Mavi Marmara. I spoke with her recently by Skype.
What does Land Day mean to you?
To me, Land Day is a day of ongoing and a continuous struggle around the issue of “land property.” This is still the crucial issue between us and the state. The core of the Zionist project is a continuous stealing of land from the Palestinians and transferring it to the Israeli Jews. Renaming the places, the junctions, the villages, the streets, and giving Jewish names to the landscape is part of this “confiscation.” It’s a way to steal from us and confiscate our historical relation with our homeland. This is the meaning of Ariel Sharon’s famous statement in the Knesset in 2002 when he said that the Palestinians inside Israel, whom he called “Israeli Arabs,” in effect have only temporary “rights in the land,” the land not yet confiscated, but “all the rights over the Land of Israel are Jewish rights.”
During the 63 years since 1948, Israel has confiscated 85 percent of our land and turned it over to the exclusive use of the Jews. It has developed and built 1,000 towns, cities and villages, all of them only for the Jews. And zero for the Palestinians. We live now on 2 percent of our land. We don’t even have permission to build our own houses on our own land and thus have no rights to use our land that hasn’t been confiscated.
How does Israel’s definition of itself as a “Jewish state” affect the Palestinian citizens of Israel?
The “Jewish state” is a state that has been established by Jews and is run by the Jews for the sake of the Jews – all at the expense of the Palestinians. It’s a racist definition. The state declares me to be an outsider in this land, though I’m the opposite. I’m the indigenous people. I didn’t immigrate to Israel; it was Israel that immigrated to me.
The State of Israel claims that it can be Jewish and democratic at the same time, as if there were no contradiction between the two. Any debate within Israel regarding the inherent contradiction between being a Jewish state and being a democratic state is considered no less than a “strategic threat.” If we are not Jewish and refuse to give up our rights, then obviously we present not just an alternative view, but something that contradicts the state’s very legitimacy: Zionism.
How you define your struggle as Palestinian citizens of Israel in relation to the struggle of the rest of the Palestinian people?
Our struggle has two components, as citizens and also as Palestinians. And unlike the state, we don’t see why both components — our citizenship and our nationality – should clash.
On the contrary, citizenship should be inclusive. We are fighting for normal citizenship with full recognition of our national rights as indigenous people that would include our history, our identity, our culture and our nationality.
My citizenship is conditioned by the Jews’ privileges. It’s even conditioned to my loyalty to these privileges! Therefore, there is no way to struggle for full equality and full citizenship without challenging the concept of “Jewish state.” To struggle for democracy in Israel is to struggle against Zionism. And this is what unifies our struggle with the wider Palestinian struggle. Racism, Oppression, Judaisation, Apartheid and Undemocracy inside Israel; Apartheid, Occupation, Oppression, and Judaisation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; and the denial of the right of return – all of these mechanisms of control serve the same ideological project: Zionism.
Nakba Day, the first intifada, the second intifada – all of these days are days of unity. But still our struggle is not united, because it lacks a unifying vision and a unifying framework of legitimacy. The Palestinian issue did not begin in 1967 and does not only concern the territories occupied in 1967. It concerns the entire Palestinian people, and even the wider Arab region.
After the Oslo Accords of 1993 defined the Palestinians inside Israel as an internal Israeli matter, we reformulated our national project in a manner that secures our reintegration into the Palestinian people and guarantees our place as an integral part of the Palestinian issue, both as part of the conflict and as part of the solution. Our demand for a “state of all its citizens” has put the Palestinians in Israel at the heart of the direct confrontation with the Zionist enterprise and has forced the “Jewish state” to admit the primacy that it grants to Jewish-Zionist values over democratic values, and to recognixe the impossibility of coexistence between the two.
This is the role we play.
Elsa Rassbach is a filmmaker and journalist from the United States, now based in Berlin. Her award-winning film, ”The Killing Floor,” an historical dramatic film about a union’s struggle against racism in the Chicago Stockyards, will be re-released this year.
- On the eve of Land Day: Al Quds anticipates the Global March (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Scores Injured as Israeli Troops Attack West Bank land Day Protests (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Palestinian lawmaker wounded in Land Day protest (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Palestinians in Israel – Book Review (alethonews.wordpress.com)
sternchenproductions | January 31, 2012 – AVAILABLE IN HD
(Ben White, Palestinians in Israel. Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy, Pluto Press, London 2012, 128 pp., 13 Pounds.)
With the signing of the Oslo Accords that led to the outbreak of the so-called peace process between Israel and the occupied Palestinian people, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) abandoned its initial political goals (to realize the right of return of Palestinian refugees and to liberate Palestine from Zionist colonization) for some privileges and turned itself into an obedient servant of the colonizers. Whereas the PLO under the leadership of Yasser Arafat tried to get back some territory from Israel to establish a Palestinian state, Palestinians living in Israel, although suffering under discrimination as second-class citizens, demand Israel to become finally “a state for all its citizens” instead of staying a “Jewish State”. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the non-Jewish inhabitants have been subject to a second-class status in most walks of life.
Ben White is a freelance journalist and writer specializing in the subject of Palestine/Israel. In his previous book “Israeli Apartheid” he showed that Israel established its special kind of “Israeli apartheid” that differs in its sophistication from the petty apartheid in South Africa under the white racist regime. His current book deals with the Palestinians living in Israel and their plight. It was overdue, that someone as competent as White would shed some light on Israel’s discriminatory treatment of some 20 per cent of its citizens. In comparison to their fellow countrymen in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), who live a life in extreme oppression; Israeli Palestinians might be designated as “Palestinians de luxe”.
The well-known Israeli Palestinian Knesset member Haneen Zoabi contributed a fine foreword in which she demanded full citizenship rights and added; “These taken for granted demands, for the indigenous people and for ‘full citizenship’, are suffice to undermine the moral and political legitimacy of the entire Zionist project, and to relegate it to the status of a racist, colonialist venture.” Israeli Palestinians demand from the State of Israel no less than to become the “state of all its citizens”. According to Zoabi, this demand “has forced the Jewish state to admit the primacy that it grants to Jewish-Zionist values over democratic values and to recognize the impossibility of coexistence between the two”. Currently, Israel is a democracy sui generis.
For making such demands, MK Zoabi and also the author came under attack by Zionist propagandists in Israel and Great Britain. Yaniv Halili wielded in “ynet” the worn Zionist “argument”, accusing both of “anti-Semitism”. Zionist defenders of Israeli war crimes, crimes against humanity, violations of human rights, contempt for international law and the United Nations, can only “justify” the morally bankrupt policies of the “only democracy in the Middle East” by slandering people who merely describe the horrible reality. The infamous Zionist lobby in Great Britain attacked the British branch of amnesty international, because it had dared present White’s book, and called for a “balanced” debate. The problem with Zionist slanderers is not their meanness – any rational person will immediately discount their arguments – the real problem lies with the non-Zionist citizens or politicians who are afraid of standing up to such intimidation, because they fear being accused of “anti-Semitism” or threatened in their career.
Ben White brings the discrimination of the forgotten minority of Israel´s colonization project in Palestine, to light. The author pursues two aims: First, he wants to show how Israel relates to its Palestinian citizens, and second, he attempts to demonstrate that “denying democracy has been part of the Zionist colonization of Palestine from the very beginning”. For White, Israel’s definition as “Jewish and democratic” is the central contradiction and the heart of the conflict.
In seven chapters White describes the manifold discrimination against what some Israelis call “Israel’s fifth column”. To preserve their status of second-class citizens, Israel developed a sophisticated set of laws that apply to Jews only. This Palestinian minority is seen by Israel’s power elite as a “demographic threat” to “Jewish majority rule”. The author shows that Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which solemnly promises to “ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex” is not considered by the Israeli High Court as “constitutional law”. White quotes Ari Shavit’s article “Formative words” in the daily Haaretz saying: “The state it declared was not a state of all its citizens. It was not even a Jewish-democratic state, but a Jewish state, pure and simple.” In the last phrase of this sentence lies Israel’s ongoing dilemma and its inherent contradictions. That is why many Israelis and Jews around the world call Israel an “ethnocracy” rather than a “democracy”.
The rest of the book deals with the implementation of Israel’s institutional discrimination. One of these discriminatory laws is the “Absentee Property Law” passed in 1950. This law regulates the exclusion of Palestinians from land acquisition and the “mechanism of expropriation” to realize the permanent alienation of (Palestinian absentees) land in favor of the Jewish state”. (24) According to White, there are numerous other laws to be used to confiscate land, such as the “Emergency Land Requisition of 1949”, or article 125 of the Emergency Regulations of 1948. This law enabled an area to be declared “closed” and then, using the “Land Acquisition” law of 1950 to designate the land as “uncultivated” and expropriate it for Jewish-only use, writes the author. It should come to no one’s surprise that current Israeli President Shimon Peres called this judicial sophistry a means of “directly continu(ing) the struggle for Jewish settlement and Jewish immigration”. (25) The Israeli land regime was finally completed in 1960, with the passing of Basic Law: Israel Lands 1960.
The campaign entitled “Judaising of the Galilee” overlaps and echoes and “judaisation” of occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights. This strategy goes along with “day-to-day racism”, a phenomenon widely cited by White. (54) Israeli newspapers periodically, including recently, report the most outrageous racist statements by rabbis, who do not mind to cite biblical texts in justification. It should be noted, that there has been no outcry by Zionist politicians against such overt racism. The author cites opinion polls showing “deep-seated levels of anti-Arab racism” in the population. (56) Such racism is reflected, among other things in the “judaisation program” against the Bedouins in the Naqab desert and the refusal to “recognize” certain Arab villages.
Systemic discrimination is described by White in areas such as education, budgetary allocations to Palestinian communities in the Galilee and petty discrimination at all levels of society. Just being an Arab disqualifies a person from serving in the Israeli military, except for members of the Druze minority. With these disqualifications goes the loss of privileges granted to Jewish soldiers and veterans.
Summing up his findings, the author tries to remain objective by writing that there might be some “logic” to the Israeli argument in “justifying” its racist policies towards the Palestinians in the OPT by pretending that the occupied territories might be “disputed” or that there might be “security concerns”. The fallacy of these arguments is revealed when it comes to the treatment of Palestinians in Israel. Israeli politicians and their friends in the U. S. and Western Europe often point out as evidence for Israeli democracy the presence of Israeli Arabs in the Knesset. However, they ignore the fact that these Arab MKs are subjected to regular slander and threats by their right-wing Jewish “colleagues” to have their parliamentarian immunity lifted or their citizenship withdrawn. It is true that “Arabs and Jews” in Israel share the same beaches, work at the same hospitals, and may travel on the same buses. The relative absence of such petty racism hides, however, the more fundamental and pernicious discrimination against Palestinians enshrined in legislation and administrative practices.
White ends his book by quoting a revealing statement of Shmuel Dayan, General Moshe Dayan’s father, who admitted in 1950: “Maybe (not allowing the refugees back] is not right and not moral, but if we become just and moral, I do not know where we will end up.” The ongoing Zionist colonization dilemma could not be better phrased.
For democrats, who are interested in the reality and the functioning of the “Jewish and democratic” State, this book can be an eye-opener.
- Delegitimizing discrimination: struggle of Palestinians in Israel focus of new book (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- More racist laws are on the way in Israel (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- New Pappe book highlights plight of forgotten Palestinians (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Does this look like “incitement” to you?
In the run-up to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) conference at the University of Pennsylvania in early February, at which I will be spearking, the defamation and fabrication machines of anti-Palestinian groups have gone into over-drive.
In December, StandWithUS attempted to smear me as an “anti-Semite” with fabricated quotes.
And just yesterday, my colleague Ben White was subjected to prominent smears that he is an “anti-Semite” in the Israeli press. That in turn is part of an escalating campaign against human rights and equality champion Haneen Zoabi.
The latest smear against me comes in a column by Emily Schrader in The College Fix which slyly accuses me of “incitement to violence against Israelis.” Schrader is identified only as “a senior at the University of Southern California.” Here’s what Schrader writes:
Among the presenters scheduled to speak are Palestinian human rights attorney Noura Erakat, Jewish-American author Anna Baltzer, and the keynote speaker, co-founder of Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah. Abunimah in particular is highly controversial, having repeatedly condemned a two-state solution, and having gone on record with comments that sound a great deal like incitement to violence against Israelis.
In 2002 he told the Washington Post, “If Israel is going to maintain a military occupation over millions of people by nothing but brute force, then no power on earth is going to stop some of these occupied people responding in kind. The only way to end the violence is to end the occupation.”
It is assumed that by “occupied territories” Abunimah is referring to the land acquired by Israel in the 1967 war. But he ignores the fact that there were a remarkable number of terror attacks against the Jewish state prior to Israel’s acquisition of the “occupied” territories.
This quote is taken from the transcript of online chat I did with Washington Post readers on 8 May 2002, at the height of the second Intifada. It makes me chuckle to think that the writer had to go back ten years to find a quote that she could distort into a smear. Seriously Emily, 2002?
Here’s the first exchange in the transcript:
Minneapolis, Minn.: Don’t suicide bombers prevent any prospect peace process from being successful?
Islam forbids suicide – then why do suicide bombers commit this act in the name of religion?
Ali Abunimah: I think that all violence against innocent civilians diminishes the prospects of peace, and this is certainly true of suicide bombings like the one we just saw. Such bombings are horrific and need to stop. What we need to add however is that most of the violence directed against innocent civilians has come from Israel. While several hundred innocent Israelis have been killed by Palestinians, five times as many innocent Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces. Israel says that this is merely an “accident” and that it is acting in self-defense. Every human rights group that has examined Israel’s actions, however, has found very deliberate targeting of civilians, wanton and deliberate use of force, and other grave abuses, such as torture. We will never know the full truth of what happened in Jenin because Israel blocked the UN Security Council-mandated inquiry, but both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch found evidence of Israeli war crimes. All of this Israeli violence which is designed to maintain Israel’s military occupation of 3.5 million Palestinians is what is provoking and producing the violence. As long as Israeli chooses violence as its only way of addressing the Palestinians, then there will always be some Palestinians who choose violence in response. The only way to break this devastating cycle is a political process that quickly ends Israel’s occupation and gives the Palestinians their freedom.
Does that sound like “incitement” to you? If you read through the rest of the transcript let me know if you find anything else that fits the description.
Who is behind this?
Schrader it turns out, learns from the best. Here she endorses the “Israel Advocacy Mission” of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), a group founded and run by the fanatically Islamophobic Pastor John Hagee.
Oh, and Schrader apparently works for notorious quote fabricators StandWithUs.
Why do they do it?
It has become more and more clear that as the message is getting out that BDS is a tactic to help bring about universal human rights, it is very difficult for anti-Palestinian groups to defame us using the standard stereotypes of violent, angry terrorists that Israel has relied on for so long.
So increasingly pro-Israel advocates must resort to outright fabrications and laughable distortions in the hope that if a lie is repeated enough it will become the truth.
But the amateurish way these lies and fabrications are done and the speed with which they are exposed only discredits their authors and strengthens us.
- Right-wing attack group caught fabricating quotes in effort to smear critics of Israel (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli Consul General wants to rescue US town from ‘foreign’ influence (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Olympia Food Co-op fights back against Israel-backed anti-boycott lawsuit (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- In blow to Israel, French BDS activists acquitted of crime in calling for boycott (alethonews.wordpress.com)