Zuabi speaking in the Knesset.
Zuabi speaking in the Knesset. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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Hanin Zuabi's hasty departure from the Knesset plenum after she was sworn in as a Knesset member for the Balad party astonished me. I thought she had an emergency of some sort. But the day after the swearing-in ceremony, Zuabi explained that she had left the plenum because she did not want to stand while the national anthem was being sung. She added that the lyrics did not speak to her – which is understandable – and also do not reflect her national aspirations, which are not Israeli but rather Palestinian.

Beyond the lack of elementary politeness, one must ask: Why did Zuabi swear loyalty to the Israeli Knesset if she feels that way? Was it because the Knesset is the one that pays her salary or because she wants to exploit the democracy of the State of Israel, enjoy freedom of expression and movement to flout its authority and impress her supporters?

In light of her provocative behavior, I looked at how the Jewish members of parliament behaved during the first days of Iraq’s independence. Even though the ancestors of the Jewish MPs had settled in Iraq long before the Arabs conquered it, they respected Iraq’s laws, the rules of the ceremony and etiquette, including standing while the Iraqi national anthem was played. I behaved the same way when I served as Israel’s representative in Egypt while the Egyptian national anthem was played. That is how Jews who live in various countries behave and how cultured people behave all over the world, whether the words of the national anthem speak to them or not.

If Zuabi is disgusted with Israel because it is a Jewish state, she is free – unlike the Jews who lived in Arab countries – to leave and live in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Libya or any other Arab country. There, she will have as much freedom and as many rights as her heart desires. It may also be hoped that her living conditions will be better than they are in Israel and that she will not be discriminated against as she claims she is here.

There is nothing coincidental about Zuabi’s provocative behavior. Whether by supporting the terrorists on the Mavi Marmara or refusing to respect the symbols of the state, she encourages the radicals to behave as she does. Most of Israel’s Arab citizens live very well compared to their brothers in Arab countries.

Their living conditions can and should be improved. But there is no place for behaving rudely, as Zuabi did, to correct historic distortions.

The author is a former Israeli ambassador.