Israel’s Persecution of Haneen Zoabi

Like apartheid South Africa, Zionist-ruled Israel must face the contradiction between being a modern democracy respecting equal rights for all and a state favoring one group over others. The logic of the second route is ever-increasing repression, as the case of Haneen Zoabi reveals, writes Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson

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, an Arab political entity formed in 1995 with the aim of “struggling to transform the state of Israel into a democracy for all its citizens.”

In most countries of the West, this would be a perfectly normal goal, but not to Israel’s Zionist ideology which views Balad’s aim as in direct opposition to the Zionist idea of Israel as a “Jewish state,” a concept that Ms. Zoabi labels “inherently racist.”

Haneen Zoubi, an Arab member of Israel’s Knesset.


In taking these stands, Haneen Zoabi appears to be fearless, a person who 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 2010. That was the time Israeli commandos attacked the Mavi Marmara in international waters, killing nine 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 anid its posturing as “the only democracy in the Middle East.” The country’s reputation in the world is, as the saying goes, fit for the dust bin.

Think of it this way:  Israel is the nation-state equivalent of Oscar Wilde’s fictional character Dorian Gray, 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 Persecution 

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.

With the assault on the Mavi Marmara, Israel added a deadly attack on a civilian vessel in international waters to its other acts of collective punishment, including the shelling and bombing of civilian neighborhoods and the seemingly random murder of civilians by Israeli border snipers.

All of these actions are criminal under international law and all easily fall into the category of state terrorism. However, in the Kafkaesque world of Zionism, it is Zoabi who became the terrorist.

On June 2, 2010, when 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 letter, by e-mail and by phone. In July 2011, while contesting statements being made by Prime Minister Benjamin 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 Jan. 22). The Knesset’s Ethics Committee voted that Zoabi had violated 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 a 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 that 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: 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.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.

24 comments for “Israel’s Persecution of Haneen Zoabi

  1. borat
    January 8, 2013 at 09:52

    The hypocrisy abounds. Show me a Jewish member of any arab govt. There ain’t none!

    • AR
      January 8, 2013 at 15:50

      The Arab states aren’t pretending to be western style democracies like Israel does.
      We know the Arab states are fundamentalist religious hell holes but in that sense so is Israel in spite of it’s veneer of modernity.

  2. Mirjam
    January 7, 2013 at 18:12

    Zoabi is a disgusting traitor who calls for the destruction of Israel. We should kick her to Gaza where she can rot between her scumbag friends.

  3. Hillary
    January 6, 2013 at 13:40

    F. G. Sanford on January 5, 2013 at 5:03 pm said:

    Sorry, F. G. Sanford

    but — October 4, 1946: On the eve of Yom Kippur, President Truman issues a statement indicating United States support for the creation of a “viable Jewish state.”

    The United States and the Recognition of Israel: A Chronology

  4. Hillary
    January 5, 2013 at 11:10

    F. G. Sanford on January 4, 2013 at 7:37 pm said.
    “Only a morally bankrupt nation could twist “Homeland for the Jews” into “The Jewish State” ”
    “morally bankrupt” ?
    Until 1946 no head of State ever used the phrase “Jewish state.” only calling it the “Jewish national home” Zionists got Trueman to use the phrase “Jewish state.”
    President Trueman did not trust his US State Department because he was “convinced” by his Jewish “friends” that it was “Anti-semitic”.
    His Jewish friends then told Trueman that if he didn’t start changing “Homeland for the Jews” to Jewish State” their support ($$$$$) would back his opponent Dewey for US president , the offer Trueman couldn’t refuse.
    The result was that the concept of a Jewish state which had not been accepted by any outside power until then.
    It was the successful drive of the Zionists to get the United States to recognize such a thing as a ” Jewish state ” while nobody in America (including President Truman) except the Zionists knew what a Jewish state was & what it would involve.
    Mr. Truman was yet another US President who knew nothing about Zionism.

    Edwin Wright General staff G-2 Middle East specialist, Washington, 1945-46)

    • F. G. Sanford
      January 5, 2013 at 17:03

      Sorry, Hillary, but Truman was handed a draft of the letter recognizing Israel’s statehood. The letter said, “the Jewish State”. Trumann crossed that out and substituted “Israel” before signing it. The letter is still on file at the Truman library, and there are photographic copies of it all over the internet.

  5. John
    January 5, 2013 at 00:25

    So muman613, all those people connected with Stern Gang, the Haganah, those who blew up the King David Hotel, those who sent letter bombs to politicians against Palestine’s partition, and those like Sharon who abetted in the Sabra Shatila massacre should be avoided at all cost !?
    Yeah, I could go with that.

  6. Daniel F
    January 5, 2013 at 00:21

    It is disappointing that the author failed to mention Israel’s supreme court ruled in favor of Zoabi’s rights. Would any other middle eastern government treat an outspoken Jewish activist with any sort of justice? The author’s deceptive article fails to even mention this outcome. Israel is a Jewish state… Why? Because in this region, it would be a Muslim state otherwise, not some bi-national dream (which doesn’t exist anywhere in the middle east).

    • charles sereno
      January 5, 2013 at 01:03

      You might’ve missed this paragraph by the author —

      “Subsequently, Israel’s Supreme Court declared that 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.”

  7. muman613
    January 4, 2013 at 20:25

    Zoabi is a terrorist, she sides with terrorists, she has met with and supports terrorists. She has no place in a democratic system. The only way it would be fair if this terrorist is allowed to serve in Knesset would be if Rabbi Kahanes Kach party is allowed to run. All those who support the terrorists deserve their fate. Israel was and always will be the Jewish homeland. I support re-locating the arabs to arab states. There is no such thing as a ‘palestinian’ as these people came from Syria, Jordan, and Egypt (as arafat did)… The Jewish people have existed in the land for 3000 years. Time to clean out the rubbish.

    • F. G. Sanford
      January 4, 2013 at 22:03

      The defense rests.

    • Michel Saint-Mars
      January 5, 2013 at 00:27

      Sorry to inform you, muman, but the Jewish people have been only a tiny minority in Palestine for about 2500 years. Your “time to clean out the rubbish” remark smacks of Nazism, but why am I surprised?

      • Icarus
        January 5, 2013 at 17:30

        I’ts high time the US took our aid, weapons and the rest of our ” toys” and left this hissy fit stay in that remote sand box where it belongs as Isreals’ dwindling support among the rest of the world speaks volumes..

    • Mirjam
      January 7, 2013 at 18:15

      Right you are. Thumbs up. She should be banned and send to Gaza with all the others who are traitors of Israel.

  8. F. G. Sanford
    January 4, 2013 at 19:37

    Bravo, Professor Davidson! Twisting the reality of ethnocentric repression into a bizarre parody which presumes to call itself democracy is the height of hypocrisy. Zoabi’s experiences in the Knesset sound like William Shirer’s description of the day Germany voted for the “Enabling Act”. Only a morally bankrupt nation could twist “Homeland for the Jews” into “The Jewish State”, anschluss of territory into “facts on the ground”, illegal occupation into “disputed territory” and ethnic cleansing into “right to exist”. It’s about time the reality of the hell on earth Israel creates in order to encourage its Arab population to, in its own words, “self deport”. The “right of return” controversy is predicated on only one thing: It serves to insure a majority that makes the democratic process in Israel an abject fraud. These policies are exactly like the “Jim Crow Laws” of the old South, and all the evils they represented. It’s just bald-faced racism hiding behind a constant harangue of phony martyrdom and a deceitful ploy for sympathy.

  9. charles sereno
    January 4, 2013 at 17:37

    @ Tom Thumb
    Seriously, have you ever witnessed an argument between two parties where one, and only one, side was always right? If not, start weighing the arguments on facts. In this case, it may be inconvenient or against what you presume every “country” does. Picture this, for example: David, a giant with lightning bolts at his fingertips; Goliath, a midget with a couple firecrackers.

    • Tom Thumb
      January 4, 2013 at 17:47

      No I haven’t that’s my point. It makes it very easy to look cartoonish with wild pronouncements.

  10. Colin Smith
    January 4, 2013 at 16:39

    A superb article about an impressive human being. The nub of Israel’s existential problems is that it is neither a fully democratic state nor a fascist theocracy. When people think about Israel they see what they want to see, and both fictions are held up for selection. I would like to think that Kissinger et al are right, and there will be no more Israel in 10 years time, but experience tells me otherwise.

    • Tom Thumb
      January 4, 2013 at 17:08

      I am no fan of Israeli policies but come on now. She has vistited foreign dictators who are in a state of war with the country she is a part of. No country would allow that. The flotilla killings were unforgivable, but again we don’t have senators even very left ones camped out a G bay and that’s a part of the us. No country would allow this, we won’t get anywhere if everything they do is wrong but everything the Palestine do is right given they are not acting as one so you’re saying Hamas is right and so is fatah, which can’t be.

      • mark
        January 4, 2013 at 20:10

        You can watch the footage on you tube of the IFD soldiers being attacked as they entered the ship. The killings were entirely justified. You attack a soldier you go home in a body bag.

        Turkey should have used better judgement but it`s leader is just a diminutive Islamic troublemaker. As for this woman she has a right to peaceful protest but meeting with foreign governments who call for the destruction of Israel?

        Lets be realistic if she was on the other side of the fence Hamas most likely would have already killed her.

        If she wants to take up with the enemy of Israel then she has to accept what that brings down upon her.

        • JC Dufresne
          January 6, 2013 at 00:47

          Mark, who are you kidding. Those IDF soldiers you idolize attacked an unarmed ship in international waters. Had the folks an that ship been armed they were within their rights to shoot everyone of those soldiers as soon as they touched the ship but of course that would have just played into the hands of the Israeli right who would then have been able to say “you see they were terrorists”. I’m no fan of Hamas and think they have much to account for but Israel is far from innocent and the U.S. does no one any favors by pretending that it is.

  11. Hillary
    January 4, 2013 at 16:33

    The Israeli population is 20% Arab.
    Israel carries out policies totally rejected by this 20% and could care less while doing so time after time.
    Yes indeed Israel is “an ethnocentric state, and a government pushing racist policies while trying to pretend it is a democracy.”

  12. rosemerry
    January 4, 2013 at 16:30

    Zoabi is brave and forceful, speaking the truth about the alleged democracy in the Zionist State. How can anyone believe that a State based on rights for only one group, while the original inhabitants who have managed to survive are not allowed to exert normal human demands, is the “ODME”? (Only Democracy in the Middle East- Uri Avnery quote).
    The guiding principles of the ODME being murder, theft and mendacity, we just have to observe what happens soon when the Israeli election sees a lurch even further to the right, and the Palestinians get marginalised even more.

    • rpdiplock
      January 9, 2013 at 07:31

      There’s nothing new about claiming to be a ‘democracy’ while excluding and/or denying the native inhabitants from a vote. The South Africans did it for nearly half a century – where approximately 2.5-3 million ‘Europeans’ claimed to have a democracy while simultaneously denying approximately 22-23 million native inhabitants a vote. There are a lot of ex South African Jews living in Israel – it just might be that they are still longing for their ‘fools paradise.’

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