The A-Z of Israel
On 22 January, Israelis will go to the polls. The world watches – but how much do we really know about the country that calls itself “the sole bastion of democracy” in the Middle East?
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
Z is for Zoabi, Haneen Haneen
Zoabi made history in 2009 when she became the first Arab woman to be elected to the Knesset on the ticket of an Arab party. She is a member of Balad (also known as the National Democratic Assembly), which opposes the idea of Israel as a solely Jewish state and which has frequently opposed state budgetary measures on the grounds that they discriminate in some way against the country’s Arab population.
In an interview with the New Statesman in 2010, she explained: “The reality of Israel’s actions shows us that it’s unrealistic to have a real sovereign state in the West Bank and Gaza with Jerusalem as the capital. The more realistic solution is one state with full national equality for both national groups.”
There are 1.6 million Arab Israelis – non- Jewish citizens of Israel whose ethnic or cultural heritage is Arab – living in the country, or 20.6 per cent of the population. Roughly 80 per cent of these are Muslim, and many identify themselves as Palestinian by nationality and Israeli by citizenship.
Zoabi was on board the MV Mavi Marmara, one of the ships in a flotilla that attempted to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza in 2010, when IDF commandos boarded the vessel, killing nine Turkish activists. She later described the raid as a “pirate military operation” during a speech in the Knesset.
Right-wing politicians in Israel have made multiple attempts to exclude Zoabi and her party from the Knesset – most recently, a member of the ruling Likud party requested that she be disqualified from future elections, claiming that she “has constantly undermined the State of Israel and has openly incited against the government”. The Central Elections Commission passed the ban, but it was overturned at the end of December by the country’s high court.
Zoabi has repeatedly faced such attempts to silence her but she continues to fight for her belief in a binational, democratic Israel. As she told the NS: “I was not elected in order to keep silent or to sit at the table and clap.”
Research by Jon Bernstein, Caroline Crampton, George Eaton, Martha Gill, Alex Hern, Daniel Trilling and Yo Zushi