A group of residents from the communal village of Nurit in the north, which is currently being developed, have opposed plans by the family of a two Arab doctors to move to the community, purportedly because of a pro-Palestinian Facebook post by the couple’s 13-year-old son.
One of those who opposed the family’s moving to Nurit said opponents had initially thought the son was a college student, and tempered their opposition when they learned that the post was by the 13-year-old son of Ali Zoabi, a pediatrician, and his wife, Zada, a geriatric physician. The family was approved by Nurit’s admissions committee and purchased a plot of land on which they intend to build a house. Ali Zoabi has worked for the past 14 years in the nearby community of Gan-Ner. His son is one of the couple’s three children.
Someone who only agreed to be identified as T., a member of the group that has opposed the Zoabis’ residence in Nurit, explained that in the course of the current hostilities between Israel and forces in Gaza, the Zoabis’ son posted a picture on Facebook in which he is seen holding a Palestinian flag. The post includes a caption stating: “Palestine under fire and the candle will never be extinguished.”
After someone posted the picture on the community Facebook page of Gan-Ner, where some of the future residents of Nurit currently live, a group of about 20 people was formed on the WhatsApp text messaging app as a platform for critics of the Zoabi family. The comments included calls for the withdrawal of the family’s acceptance as residents of Nurit. Other posts included contemptuous comments about the family including one, in reference to the Zoabis’ son, that stated: “I feel like vomiting on him and burning him with the flag ... ”
Subsequent posts included one stating: “Every Arab in the community should suffer, as should anyone who provides support for an Arab family,” while another read: “We just want a quiet community without Arabs, and if that’s not possible, I’m not building there at all.”
T. said he preferred to remain anonymous due to what he said was harsh criticism directed at him and his family since the issue surfaced. When the initial criticism against the Zoabis’ son was expressed, it was thought that he was a college student, T. said. When it turned out that he was 13, the highly critical comments stopped, but the critics still expect an explanation and apology from the father, T. said, and until they are forthcoming, the opposition to the family’s residence in Nurit would continue.
Ali Zoabi, who is currently living in the Galilee Arab village of Kafr Misr, called his son’s Facebook post an excuse on the part of the critics and said that opposition to his family’s move to the Gilboa region community of Nurit began in February, well before the flap over the Facebook content. Two other future residents of the community invited him at the time to a restaurant, he said, and tried to convince him not to move to Nurit, claiming that there would be those who would cause him harm. One gestured as if with a gun, he said.
T. acknowledged that there had been opposition to the Zoabis’ move to Nurit half a year ago but denies that there were ever any threats against the doctor. “Since the opposition subsided, I called Dr. [Ali] Zoabi and congratulated him on being accepted into the community and promised to help him, but after the real face of the family was revealed, we can’t let this pass in silence,” T. said. “Now lies are being told about us.”
Although the group of those opposing the Zoabi family numbers about 20, about another 60 of the 110 families that have been accepted to live in Nurit also oppose the Zoabis but are afraid to express their views, T. said.
The law allows small communities in the north and south to establish admissions committees that can decide whether to accept applicants as community residents based on criteria including social compatibility. Unlike some Arab families elsewhere, the Zoabis were accepted by the admissions committee in Nurit.
Ali Zoabi is refusing to forgo his plans to move to the community and said he has received backing from a range of public figures, including Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who called him to express her support. Support has also come from the head of the Gilboa Regional Council Danny Atar and from dozens of area residents, Zoabi said.
“I’ve been working with residents of the Gilboa region for 14 years,” he noted. “The people who have come out against me are just people looking for problems. I will live in Nurit. Maybe the people who came out against me will discover over time that they are not suitable for this community and will want to leave. Time will tell who is well integrated and who isn’t,” he said. “I have dozens of friends here. A handful [of people] won’t deter me.”
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