Haneen Zoabi

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Haneen Zoabi
Date of birth (1969-05-23) 23 May 1969 (age 45)
Place of birth Nazareth, Israel
Knessets 18, 19
Faction represented in Knesset
2009– Balad
Ministerial roles

Haneen Zoabi, also Hanin Zoubi, (Arabic: حنين زعبي‎, Hebrew: חנין זועבי; born 23 May 1969) is an Israeli Arab and an Israeli citizen,[1] the first Arab Israeli woman to be elected to the Israeli legislative body on an Arab party's list.[2] Zoabi ran in the 2009 legislative elections for the Balad party.[1][2]


Haneen Zoabi was born in Nazareth to a Muslim family.[3] Zoabi studied philosophy and psychology at the University of Haifa, earning a Bachelors of Arts, and received a Masters of Arts in communications from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.[4] She was the first Arab citizen of Israel to graduate in media studies, and established the first media classes in Arab schools.[2] She also worked as a mathematics teacher and worked as a school inspector for the Israeli Ministry of Education.[2]

She is a relative of Seif el-Din el-Zoubi, a former mayor of Nazareth and member of the Knesset between 1949 and 1959, and again from 1965 until 1979, and Abd el-Aziz el-Zoubi, a Deputy Health Minister and the first Arab member of an Israeli government.[5]

Political career[edit]

Zoabi joined Balad in 2001.[4] In 2003, she co-founded the NGO I'lam – Media Center for Arab Palestinians in Israel (pronounced e'e'lam). Zoabi was its general director until she resigned shortly before the 2009 election to focus on her political career.[4]

Prior to the 2009 elections she won third place on the Balad list, and entered the Knesset after the party won three seats. She became the first female Arab MK to represent an Arab party (though preceded by Hussniya Jabara and Nadia Hilou on other lists).[6] Zoabi ran for Knesset as a Balad candidate in 2006, but was too low on the party's electoral list to win a seat.[4]

Political views and opinions[edit]

Zoabi rejects the idea of Israel as a solely Jewish state, which she describes as "inherently racist." She has argued that this is the only way to combat Avigdor Lieberman's demand that Israeli citizens take loyalty oaths: "Balad's concept, which rejects the 'Jewish state' idea, is the only idea that can remove [Avigdor] Lieberman from the circle of political and moral legitimacy... When you agree with the 'Jewish state' idea, you necessarily agree with the idea of loyalty to this state. Rejecting the 'Jewish state' concept will block the road for anyone who demands our loyalty to such a state."[7] Zoabi sees no difference between Lieberman and more mainstream Israeli politicians, saying that Lieberman, Tzipi Livni, and Benjamin Netanyahu are "all a bunch of fascists pure and simple."[4]

In 2009, she met with Code Pink, and Coalition of Women for Peace.[8]

At the 18th Knesset swearing-in ceremony on February 24, 2009, she left the Knesset plenum before the singing of Hatikva, Israel's national anthem. "'Hatikva' doesn't represent me", she later said. "I preferred to leave the room, because I don't appreciate hypocrisy."[9] According to the Jerusalem Post, Zoabi has not denounced Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons, explaining, "I am afraid of real risk rather than of potential risk. The Iranian bomb was only "a potential" threat. The real danger was the IDF... It is more dangerous to the world, more dangerous to everyone, more dangerous to the Palestinians, to Israelis, to have Israel as the only powerful state...The Israeli violence of the army is an outcome of Israel's convenient feeling that no one will restrict her.”[7]

Zoabi rejects any form of national service for Israel's Arab citizens.[10] In an interview with Jonathan Cook, Zoabi said: "It is frustrating and exhausting having always to be on the defensive about why I identify as a Palestinian, why I am not a Zionist, why the Jewish state is not democratic and cannot represent me, why I am entitled to citizenship. It is a Sisyphean labor."[2]

Participation in the Gaza flotilla[edit]

On 31 May 2010 Zoabi participated in the Gaza flotilla.[11] She was on board the MV Mavi Marmara where violence broke out when Israeli commandos boarded the ship with intention of redirecting it to the port of Ashdod.[12] In a speech at the Knesset, Zoabi describing the raid as a "pirate military operation."[13] During her speech, she was repeatedly interrupted by the other Israeli lawmakers, who furiously shouted "Go to Gaza, traitor"! During her address she said: "Israel spoke of a provocation, but there was no provocation. Why does the government of Israel oppose an investigation?" Later in a press conference she elaborated: "It was clear from the size of the force that boarded the ship that the purpose was not only to stop this sail[ing], but to cause the largest possible number of fatalities in order to stop such initiatives in the future."[14]

Two security guards were assigned for her protection after she received death threats. One man who offered a reward on Facebook of free groceries for killing Zoabi was arrested.[15][16]

Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai requested that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein revoke Zoabi's parliamentary immunity and authorize Yishai to strip Zoabi of her Israeli citizenship. Yishai accused Zoabi of engaging in a "premeditated act of treason", and claimed she used her immunity to protect her from prosecution, even though she assisted activists and was "undoubtedly aware" of their preparations to attack IDF soldiers.[17] Likud MK Yariv Levin also accused Zoubi of betraying the State of Israel, and called for her prosecution.[18]

A Knesset committee voted 7–1 to recommend her parliamentary immunity be revoked,[19] which attracted concern from the Inter-Parliamentary Union[20] and was ultimately blocked by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who ignored the recommendation and declined to submit it to a vote of the full Knesset. He and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hoped that sparing Zoabi would protect Israel from further international condemnation over its navy's effort to blockade Gaza. Rivlin was also stunned by the assault on Zoabi's privileges as well as an almost physical attack. He asked, "Would they do that to a Jewish member?"[19]

When the full Knesset met on 13 July 2010, it decided, in a 34–16 vote, to strip her of three parliamentary privileges as a penalty for her participation in the flotilla: the right to have a diplomatic passport, entitlement to financial assistance should she require legal help, and the right to visit countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations.[21] She was also stripped of the right to participate in Knesset discussions and to vote in parliamentary committees.[22]

In 2011, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein closed the case against Zoabi "as result of significant evidentiary and legal difficulties."[23]

Altercation in the Knesset[edit]

In 2011, Zoabi was accused of assaulting a female usher of the Knesset after she was asked to leave for heckling during a speech. Zoabi subsequently apologised to the usher, writing “I didn’t intend to push or harm you. I respect you and your work. I apologized in the press at my own volition without anyone having to tell me to.” A majority of the MKs in the House Committee said they were satisfied with Zoabi’s apology and would not consider further action.[24]

Israeli Foreign Ministry Tweets[edit]

Partly because of an Israeli Embassy's tweets about Zoabi, in August 2012 the Foreign Ministry of Israel updated its social media guidelines for its worldwide diplomats, clarifying that for practical purposes there is no difference between a tweet or on-line social media post and an official briefing, as they will be interpreted as Israel's official position. This move followed several embarrassing incidents where inappropriate tweets or posts were made by Israeli embassies. One major embarrassment occurred when Zoabi made a speaking tour of Ireland. When she criticized Israel in some of her speeches, the Dublin-based Israeli Embassy in Ireland responded with three tweets critical of her, in spite of the fact that she is an elected official.[25]

Attempted disqualification[edit]

In December 2012, it was announced that the Central Elections Committee and a panel of Supreme Court judges would hold discussions on whether to disqualify Zoabi, as well as the Balad and United Arab List parties, from the 2013 election. The request for her disqualification, submitted by MK Ofir Akunis (Likud) and which obtained the necessary number of signatures, stated that "throughout her years in the Knesset, Zoabi has constantly undermined the State of Israel and has openly incited against the government, its institutions and IDF soldiers." The request further noted that Zoabi negates Israel's existence as a Jewish and democratic state, which makes Knesset candidates eligible for disqualification.[26]

After hearing the case, the Central Elections Committee disqualified Zoabi in a 19-9 vote.[27] The Israeli Supreme Court overturned the disqualification, with the nine-judge panel headed by Supreme Court President Asher Grunis unanimously voting to overturn the ban.[28] In February 2013, MK Danny Danon initiated a bill dubbed the "Zoabi Law", as an amendment to the Basic Law dealing with legislation. Specifically aimed at Zoabi, the new law would make it harder for the Supreme Court to overturn a decision by the Central Elections Committee. Under the law, the Supreme Court would be unable to overturn a Central Elections Committee decision unless the committee displayed "extreme unreasonableness", while the committee will only be able to disqualify an MK or party with a two-thirds vote, as opposed to a majority. In addition, it also allows an MK to be impeached and removed from office if a sufficient number of Knesset members file a complaint and vote in favor of removal.[29][30]

2014 Investigation and suspension[edit]

On 25 July, Israeli attorney general Yehuda Weinstein ordered an investigation into charges of incitement and public disgrace.[31]

On 29 July, following comments made about the recent kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers, Zoabi was suspended from the Knesset plenum for a duration of 6 months.[32] Zoabi referred to the kidnappers by stating "They are not terrorists, even if I do not agree with their actions, these people do not have any escape, any escape."[33] Labor opposition leader Issac Herzog condemned Zoabi's statements, saying that her comments "were harmful to peace and the coexistence of Jews and Arabs in Israel as well as to the families who are hopefully awaiting news regarding their missing loved ones."[34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b An interview with Haneen Zoubi, the only female Arab in the Knesset Alternatives International Journal. April 2009. p.6
  2. ^ a b c d e Cook, Jonathan (February 25, 2009). "Palestinian Woman Makes History in Israeli Parliament". AlterNet. Retrieved June 22, 2010. 
  3. ^ Jason Koutsoukis (16 May 2009). "Voice of equality". The Age. My parents are Muslims. They pray, they fast, they have been to Mecca, but they raised their children to think and feel as liberal, open-minded people. 
  4. ^ a b c d e From The Jerusalem Report (March 16, 2009). "Provocative Parliamentarian (Extract)". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved June 22, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Ministers of the Minorities". Governments of Israel. Knesset of Israel Website. Retrieved June 22, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Haneen Zoubi Makes Knesset History, And Then Some". Caledoniyya. February 26, 2009. Retrieved June 22, 2010. 
  7. ^ a b Sokol, Samuel (March 31, 2009). "New Balad MK praises Iran's nuke quest: Zuabi cites Cold War, saying Mutually Assured Destruction is a means to restrain Israel.". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved June 22, 2010. 
  8. ^ "MK Haneen Zoubi in a Meeting with CodePink and CWP". Gaza-eng.coalitionofwomen.org. 1999-02-22 ?. Retrieved June 22, 2010.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  9. ^ Paz, Shelly (February 24, 2009). "Peres: Conclude peace deal this term". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved June 22, 2010. 
  10. ^ "General Consensus against 'Civic Service' in the 'I Will Not Serve' Conference in Haifa" (Doc). Baladna Association for Arab Youth. March 27, 2007. Retrieved June 22, 2010. 
  11. ^ Ali Abunimah (May 30, 2010). "Palestinian Pundit: Image: Palestinian Knesset member Haneen Zoubi speaks to Israel media from Gaza flotilla". Palestinianpundit.blogspot.com. Retrieved June 22, 2010. 
  12. ^ "The occupation authorities transfer Haneen Zoubi to investigation". FreeGaza.ps. June 1, 2010. Retrieved June 22, 2010. 
  13. ^ Ravid, Barak; Haaretz Service, Jack Khoury and Jonathan Lis (June 2, 2010). "Israeli Arab MK who joined Gaza flotilla: IDF raid was a 'pirate' operation". Haaretz. Retrieved June 22, 2010. 
  14. ^ Joshua Mitnick (June 5, 2010). "Zoubi turns the heat on Tel Aviv with open criticism of action". Reprinted from The Christian Science Monitor. Gulf News. Retrieved June 22, 2010. 
  15. ^ "חדשות – פוליטי/מדיני nrg – ...ח"כ חנין זועבי: הנייה אמר לי". Nrg.co.il. 2010-06-05. 
  16. ^ JPost.Com staff; Rebecca Anna Stoil (June 6, 2010). "Facebook user calls for MK Zoabi's death". JPost.com. Retrieved June 22, 2010. 
  17. ^ Ravid, Barak (June 3, 2010). "Interior Minister seeks to strip Israeli Arab MK of citizenship: Israeli Arab MK Hanin Zuabi took part in Gaza aid flotilla, in what Eli Yishai calls a 'premeditated act of treason'". Haaretz. 
  18. ^ Lis, Jonathan (June 7, 2010). "Knesset panel recommends revoking Arab MK's privileges". Haaretz. 
  19. ^ a b "Israel's democracy: Under siege too: Some liberals say that Israel's vaunted democracy is under threat". The Economist. June 17, 2010. Retrieved June 22, 2010. 
  20. ^ Lis, Jonathan (2010-06-16). "International lawmakers may probe Israeli decision to censure Arab MK". Haaretz.com. 
  21. ^ Lis, Jonathan (2010-07-14). "Knesset revokes key privileges of Hanin Zuabi". Haaretz.com. 
  22. ^ Harkov, Lahav (2010-07-18). "Haneen Zoabi suspended from Knesset over Gaza flotilla". Jerusalem Post.  Lis, Jonathan (2010-07-18). "Arab MK stripped of further parliamentary privileges for role in Gaza flotilla". Haaretz. 
  23. ^ Glickman, Aviad. "Flotilla case closed: Zoabi won't be charged." Ynetnews. 22 December 2011. 22 December 2011.
  24. ^ Zoabi 'attack' episode ends with apology Jerusalem Post, By GIL HOFFMAN07/19/2011 18:54
  25. ^ "Ravid, Barak 'Israel's Foreign Ministry gives envoys a lesson on twitter diplomacy:Recent embarrassing Facebook and Twitter posts prompt Foreign Ministry to update social media guidelines for Israeli diplomats around the world.' (Aug 15, 2012) Haaretz" http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/diplomania/israel-s-foreign-ministry-gives-envoys-a-lesson-on-twitter-diplomacy-1.458420
  26. ^ http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4317728,00.html
  27. ^ http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/19/haneen-zoabi-disqualified-re-election-knesset
  28. ^ http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4326059,00.html
  29. ^ http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=2382
  30. ^ http://www.jpost.com/Diplomacy-and-Politics/Zoabi-Bill-seeks-to-keep-Balad-MK-out-of-Knesset
  31. ^ "Israel launches criminal probe against Arab lawmaker". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 29 July 2014. 
  32. ^ "MK Zoabi suspended from Knesset plenum". Haaeretz. Retrieved 29 July 2014. 
  33. ^ "The Knesset v. Zoabi: Israeli Arab MK's politics put on trial". 972mag. 9 December 2014. 
  34. ^ "Herzog to Zoabi: Opposition condemns statements that support kidnapping". Jerusalem Post. 18 June 2014. 

External links[edit]

Official sites[edit]

See also[edit]