Around a dozen people gathered at the gallery of the West Bank settlement of Tekoa on Thursday night to meet with Anett Haskia, an Arab Muslim woman who is vying for a slot on Habayit Hayehudi’s Knesset slate. A hairdresser who grew up in the northern Israeli city of Acre and today lives on Kibbutz Yehiam, nearby, Haskia describes herself as an “Arab Muslim Zionist.” She tried to persuade her audience that droves of Israeli Arabs support the settlements, the army and the right wing, but it was a hard sell. They may have been pleased to hear her views, but they didn’t seem convinced that she represented a large group and seemed puzzled by her decision to join a religious Zionist party.
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“The state has abandoned us to the Arab Knesset members, we have no voice,” she tried to explain. To the retort that Arab voters chose to support the Arab parties, she claimed voter fraud was widespread. One man said he had served on a polling place committee in an Arab village and had witnessed corruption and an attempt to switch a ballot box.
As the audience continued to pepper her with tough questions, a young woman came to her defense. Tsila Lavi, an impressive woman with a kerchief on her head and a holstered pistol at her back, had invited Haskia to Tekoa. An artist, her paintings hang in the gallery.
“Anett got publicity during the war,” Lavi said. “That’s when it came out that there are other Arabs who want to stop whining, who want to serve and be part of the state. Many leftists attacked her, they stopped coming to her hair salon, and Anett has paid a heavy price. Why do I support Haskia? Because I’m sick of [Balad MK] Haneen Zoabi, I’m sick of the Arab MKs and also [of] ... Jewish MKs who preach against the Jewish people,” Lavi said.
“The left doesn’t support us,” Haskia said. “If I say I am Palestinian, all the leftists will love me. They want to control us like puppets. The left exploits us.”
Haskia has received an award from the right-wing Im Tirtzu organization and she has been embraced by the right-leaning newspaper Makor Rishon, with an article about her headed “Good Arab.” Regarding an agreement with the Palestinians, she says only “I’m against this peace.”
But Haskia does talk about anti-Arab discrimination in Israel, mentioning her army-veteran daughter who was unable to rent an apartment in a Jewish community, the poor level of the country’s Arab schools and the failure to teach Arabic effectively.
To a young man who asks her why she seeks to run in a Jewish religious party that “excludes you a priori,” Haskia says that Israel is also a Jewish state and that for years she has been trying to establish a youth center for Arab Zionists. When he persisted, saying that if he were Arab he would find it hard to sing “Hatikva,” with its “yearning Jewish soul,” she said that while she does not have to sing Israel’s national anthem, “I stand up and respect it.”
Tzvia, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, sits down next to me and whispers that she came to figure out the conspiracy. “How did someone without an academic education learn to express an opinion so clearly and succinctly? ... Someone taught her. I want to know what’s going on,” Tzvia said.
Last week Haskia held a similar meeting one in the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, near Hebron.
“During the war there was a rumor that my soldier son was killed,” Haskia said. “The people who helped me the most were the settlers. I always thought they hated me, but I am much calmer with religious people. We always hear that the settlers eat for free, don’t work and that all the money goes to the settlements. People on the left hate you like you can’t imagine.
“Oh, we can imagine, we can imagine,” said gallery owner Bella Levin.