Ayman Odeh

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Ayman Odeh
Faction represented in the Knesset
2015–2019Joint List
2019–2022Joint List
Personal details
Born (1975-01-01) 1 January 1975 (age 49)
Haifa, Israel

Ayman Odeh (Arabic: أيمن عودة; Hebrew: אַיְּימָן עוֹדֶה; born 1 January 1975) is a Palestinian citizen of Israel,[1] lawyer, and politician.[2] He is a member of Knesset and leader of the Hadash party.[3]


Ayman Odeh was born in 1975,[4] and raised in Haifa, within the Kababir neighbourhood. His father was a construction worker.[2] Although his family was Muslim, Odeh's parents sent him to a Christian school where he was the only Muslim student, proudly noting that he got an A in New Testament studies on his high school final exams. He now describes himself as having transcended the confines of religion and ethnicity.[2] He studied law at the University of Craiova in Romania from 1993 to 1997. During his law studies in Romania, he took part in pro-Palestinian rallies, learned Romanian, and read the memoirs of various political thinkers and revolutionaries.[5] He earned a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Craiova and in 2001 was certified to practice law in Israel, though he is not a member of the Israel Bar Association.[citation needed]

Odeh is married to Nardine Aseli, a gynecologist, whom he met at the wake for her 17-year-old brother who was killed in 2000 at the start of the Second Intifada.[6] They have three children.

He speaks Arabic, Hebrew, English, and Romanian.[4]

Political career[edit]

A meeting of demonstrators with Ayman Odeh at his home in Haifa on 2 April 2021, to call on him to enter the change government that would prevent Benjamin Netanyahu from continuing to serve as prime minister. The meeting, which began with a demonstration, took place in parallel with the demonstrations in front of the houses of Bennett, Saar and Gantz.

Odeh joined Hadash, and represented it on Haifa City Council between 1998 and 2005, before becoming the party's secretary-general in 2006. He was placed 75th on the party's list for the 2009 elections,[7] in which Hadash won four seats. He won sixth place on the party's list for the 2013 Knesset elections, but failed to enter the Knesset, as the party again won four seats.[8]

Following the announcement that Hadash leader Mohammed Barakeh was resigning prior to the 2015 elections, Odeh was elected as the party's new leader.[8] In the buildup to the 2015 elections, Hadash joined the Joint List, an alliance of the main Arab parties. Odeh was placed at the head of the Joint List's electoral list. Analysts credited the charismatic Odeh for giving the Arab political union a more moderate, pragmatic face.[2][9][10] Odeh was elected to the 20th Knesset, along with 12 other candidates from the Joint List.[11][12]

In an interview with The Times of Israel, Odeh discussed the Joint List's social agenda, including a 10-year plan to tackle issues pertinent to the Arab sector, such as employment of women, rehabilitation of failing regional councils, recognition of unrecognized Bedouin communities in the Negev, public transportation in Arab towns, and eradication of violence. He also said he supported the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in Israel, adding that a Palestinian state should fulfill the same goals for Arab Palestinians.[9]

Odeh's campaign for the March 2015 elections had a "breakthrough moment" when, in a televised debate of candidates, Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's foreign minister, called Odeh a "Palestinian citizen" and said Odeh was not welcome in Israel. Odeh replied, "I am very welcome in my homeland. I am part of the nature, the surroundings, the landscape", contrasting his birth in Israel with Lieberman's immigration from the former Soviet Union. Odeh is now viewed as a potential power broker given that Arab parties appear to be uniting to meet the government's requirement that parties meet a minimum threshold of votes to secure a place in the Knesset. Odeh has a style that contrasts with that of MK Haneen Zoabi, who is more confrontational. Odeh voices his willingness to work with Jewish partners, and he often quotes Martin Luther King Jr.[13]

In the 2020 election, Odeh and the Joint List recommended Benny Gantz for prime minister.[14]

Award and recognition[edit]

  • Listed as top 100 leading global thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine[15][16]
  • Listed as top 100 influential by TheMarker magazine for the year 2016, and was listed in the 9th place[17]
  • Listed as top 100 influential by TheMarker magazine for the year 2017[18]

Views and opinions[edit]

Odeh says his service on Haifa City Council made it clear to him that Arabs and Jews must work together. He describes Haifa as "the most liberal multicultural yet homogenous city in Israel".[19]

Odeh has also expressed strong support for increasing recognition of Mizrahi culture and Arab Jewish history in official Israeli and Palestinian discourses; in a widely cited speech to the Knesset plenum in July 2015, MK Odeh argued that the State of Israel has systematically discriminated against and suppressed the culture of Jews who immigrated to Israel from Arab and Muslim lands (who make up the majority of the Israeli population [citation needed]) in order to feed the idea of a natural separation between Jews and Arabs. He also argued that the large role played by Jews in forming historical and modern Arab culture (including famous Jews such as Rabbi David Buzaglo, who wrote Jewish religious poetry primarily in Arabic, and famous Jews who were popular in the Arab world in the mid-20th century, such as Leila Mourad), has been forgotten by Jews and Arabs alike due to the ideological elements of the Arab–Israeli conflict, and the desire by Israel's elite to portray a Western image of Jews and of the country. Odeh called upon Jewish and Arab members of the Knesset alike to support a new Knesset committee (which he had joined as a member) lobbying for the re-emphasizing of the culture of Jews from Arab and Muslim lands.[citation needed] In that speech, Odeh summarized his position thus: "The culture of the Jews of Arab and Islamic countries is a shared Jewish and Arab culture. Because of this, the state has fought [against] it, and yet because of this [same reason], we must fight to strengthen it."[citation needed]

Odeh says, "We represent those who are invisible in this country, and we give them a voice. We also bring a message of hope to all people, not just to the Arabs, but to the Jews, too".[20]

In October 2015, Odeh gave support to the "unarmed Palestinian struggle". However, when asked about "throwing rocks, ... firebombs, and shooting at cars", Odeh responded that regarding throwing rocks, he supported the First Intifada.[21]

In February 2016, Odeh considered resigning from the Knesset to show his protest against a controversial MK suspension bill.[22]


Shin Bet interrogations[edit]

Israel's internal intelligence agency, the Shin Bet, has interrogated Odeh many times in the past. He said in an interview to The New Yorker: "I was called three more times by the Shin Bet. They never hit me. But they succeeded in two things. I isolated myself from my friends—I became much more introverted. And I had the sense the Shin Bet was watching me no matter where I went. When I went to the bus station, and I saw some guy in sunglasses, I just assumed he was Shin Bet."[23]

Death threats[edit]

A right-wing activist was arrested in February 2016 for making death threats against Odeh.[24]

Umm al-Hiran incident[edit]

On 18 January 2017, Odeh was allegedly shot by a sponge-tipped bullet in the forehead by Israel Police as he protested against the demolition of homes in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran. The police initially claimed that he was hit by stones thrown by other protestors.[25] It later backtracked, claiming both that it had never stated that Odeh was hit by stones and that it didn't know what caused Odeh's head injury.[26]

The British Forensic Architecture, led by Eyal Weizman of Goldsmiths, University of London, which analyzed video evidence of the incident strongly suspected that Odeh had been hit by a sponge-tipped bullet because 47 seconds of video had been redacted – precisely the time during which Odeh was injured.[27]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ NYT, 22 September 2019: "The Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel have chosen to reject Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, ..."
  2. ^ a b c d Laub 2015.
  3. ^ NYT, 22 September 2019: Mr. Odeh leads the Joint List, the third-largest bloc in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, and is chairman of the Hadash Party.
  4. ^ a b "Knesset Member Ayman Odeh". Knesset. Retrieved 2024-04-19.
  5. ^ Remnick 2016.
  6. ^ ST, 15 March 2015.
  7. ^ Hadash Knesset website (in Hebrew)
  8. ^ a b TOI 2015.
  9. ^ a b Miller 2015.
  10. ^ Shrenzel, Israel (28 February 2015). "The joint Arab list: Careful who you vote for". Haaretz. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  11. ^ "20th Knesset to be sworn in March 31, 2015". Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 23 March 2015. Retrieved 29 March 2015.
  12. ^ תוצאות האמת של הבחירות לכנסת ה-20 [Actual results of the 20th Knesset elections] (in Hebrew). Israeli Central Elections Committee. Archived from the original on 2015-03-18. Retrieved 29 March 2015.
  13. ^ NYT, 15 March 2015.
  14. ^ NYT, 22 September 2019.
  15. ^ Lis, Jonathan (1 December 2015). "Israeli Arab Party Leader Makes Foreign Policy's 100 leading Global Thinkers List". Haaretz. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  16. ^ "For Uniting Israel's Arabs". Foreign Policy.
  17. ^ "Ayman Odeh 100 most influential". TheMarker.
  18. ^ "100 המשפיעים  2017". TheMarker.
  19. ^ Schulman, Marc (6 March 2015). "Israeli Election: What Do Israeli Arabs Want?". Newsweek. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  20. ^ Eglash, Ruth (10 March 2015). "Israel's Arab political parties have united for the first time". The Washington Post. Retrieved 21 June 2022.
  21. ^ Ben Solomon, Ariel (October 6, 2015). "Odeh: I do not put limits on the Palestinian struggle against 'occupation'". The Jerusalem Post.
  22. ^ Harkov, Lahav (1 March 2016). "Joint List's Odeh threatens to resign from Knesset if bill is used to remove Balad MKs". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 21 June 2022.
  23. ^ Remnick, David (25 January 2016). "Seeds of Peace". The New Yorker. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
  24. ^ Gancman, Lee (11 February 2016). "Right-winger arrested for death threats against chairman, Arab party says". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
  25. ^ Shaham, Udi (January 18, 2017). "Protesters claim Joint List MK shot in head as police secure Umm-al-Hiran". The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com. Retrieved September 16, 2020. Police stated that Odeh's head injury was the result of stone throwing by protesters.
  26. ^ Zonszein, Mairav (January 31, 2017). "Israel Police backtrack over injury to Palestinian MK". +972 Magazine. Retrieved September 15, 2020.
  27. ^ Breiner, Josh (3 June 2019). "New Footage Sheds Light on Fraught, Fatal 2017 Episode in Bedouin Village". Haaretz. Retrieved 21 June 2022.


External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by Leader of Hadash
New office Leader of the Joint List
2015–2019; 2019–present