Israel’s Codependent Relationship With Haneen Zoabi

The Arab-Israeli parliamentarian causes outrage. Israel freaks out. This dance has no end.

Asher Schechter
Asher Schechter
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Haneen Zoabi.Credit: Gil Eliahu
Asher Schechter
Asher Schechter

In psychological terms, “codependency” can be defined as a relationship in which two people are overly obsessed with each other, constantly try to manipulate each other while being overly reliant on each other’s approval or love.

The relationship takes precedence over their own needs. They are addicted to a relationship that can only be described as emotionally destructive and unhealthy. Simple as that.

Watching the furor surrounding Balad MK Haneen Zoabi this past week as once again she managed to provoke the Israeli public into lunging collectively at her throat, one couldn’t help think of the word “codependent”. Israel and Zoabi have a suffocating, emotionally destructive, unhealthy relationship that they can't seem to live without.

Back in the ring of the ideological boxing match

This week, in Round 15 of the ideological boxing match that is Haneen Zoabi vs. The State of Israel, the Balad MK managed to make Israeli hate her even more - a feat previously thought impossible - by saying the kidnappers of the three Israeli teenagers are “not terrorists. They are people who cannot see any other way to change their reality, and are forced to use these means until Israel "wises up a bit”.

In all respects, this was Haneen Zoabi’s week. One day she’s sympathizing with the kidnappers, on another she called Palestinian president Abu Mazen a “traitor to the Palestinian people”. In between she managed to say Benjamin Netanyahu should be indicted for “crimes of occupation.”

And boy, did she manage to raise hell this time. Even by Zoabi's standards - and remember, this is the member of the Israeli parliament who participated in the infamous Gaza flotilla, who once called for a third Intifada (“like the first one, not like the second one”) - the outrage her remarks sparked was remarkable.

Likud MK Miri Regev, her longtime nemesis, demanded she be deported to Gaza. Foreign Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman called her a “terrorist” and claimed she should suffer the same fate as the boys’ kidnappers.

Israel's left used words that were only slightly less harsh. Threats on her life escalated to the point that she's been given round-the-clock security.

And, in what is certainly a new low for everyone involved, the police recommended an investigation be launched against Zoabi for her remarks.

Outrageous as usual

Now, this all may seem dramatic and quite harsh, but actually the events of the few days just follow the standard routine of Zoabi’s relationship with the Israeli public and press. First she says something outrageous, then Israelis - totally unprepared and absolutely threatened by this exemplification of free speech - go totally bonkers. They attack, and try to constrain Zoabi in some fashion - in 2012 this was her disqualification from running in the upcoming elections by the Central Elections Committee, a decision that was eventually overturned by Israel’s High Court.

Then she wins, because Israel still a quasi-democracy and she is still an elected representative with diplomatic immunity who is allowed to speak her mind. And then things calm down.

Then they escalate again. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Without you

The thing is, neither side truly wants to “win” the war between mainstream Israel and Zoabi. Like every codependent relationship, both sides benefit from it, and both define themselves based on their respective positions within it. After all, what is Haneen Zoabi without Israel, and what would Israel be without Haneen Zoabi to serve as the poster girl for Israel-hate?

Beneath all this abuse must lie true love.

Israel needs Zoabi because she gives the right wing the ultimate justification to delegitimize the Arab citizens of Israel as closet terror supporters (and the Israeli left as closet supporters of terror supporters).

Zoabi needs Israel to be violent and oppressive because it makes her look so important, so threatening to the regime. Without Israel acting like a bully, Zoabi is just a provocateur (albeit a good one) who isn’t even truly loved in her own sector, as the measly support of 10% she received when she ran for mayor of Nazareth last year might show.

Despite her recent troubles with the Israeli regime, it is important to understand that Haneen Zoabi will not be impeached. She will not be arrested. This dance of ineffectuality will go on forever, or at least there’s peace - whichever comes first.

So even if the events that surrounded Zoabi this last week seem dramatic, it's best to put them in perspective.

And as with any codependent relationship that we witness, there is not much we can do to change it. Just shake our heads in sorrow, tsk tsk, and say: boy, these two, I hope one day they’ll be able to finally break free of each other. In the meantime, can’t they just learn to get along?

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