Lawmaker Makes History as Third Woman to Serve in Israeli Arab Party

Neven Abu Rahmoun sworn in, vows to step up protests against nation-state law. 'This is a breakthrough for Arab women in Israel,' MK Aida Touma-Sliman says

MK Neven Abu Rahmoun, giving her maiden address in the plenum on Monday. Besides working on a campaign protesting the controversial nation-state law, she will focus on women's and children's rights.
David Bachar

Neven Abu Rahmoun was sworn in Monday as a lawmaker for the Joint List, taking over for another colleague under a rotation agreement, and making history by becoming the third woman to serve in the Israeli Arab party in the Knesset at the same time.

MK Aida Touma-Sliman, of the Joint List's Hadash faction, said “this is a breakthrough for Arab women in Israel,” and praised her new colleague as “a role model for all Arab women.” The party’s third woman Knesset member is Haneen Zoabi of the Balad faction, of which Abu Ramoun, 37, is also a member.

Abu Rahmoun is a civics teacher in Bu'eine Nujeidat, a village in northern Israel, who has been active in the party since 1998. In addition to working on a campaign against the controversial nation-state law that Israel passed in summer, Abu Rahmoun will likely focus in the Knesset on issues pertaining to children's rights and advancement of the status of women.

In her maiden speech in the plenum on Monday, Abu Rahmoun said “I am committed to fighting against the nation-state law. Whoever believes in the values of equality will understand how after the national state law, the situation is no longer as it was.”

She also pledged to fight against any legislation “that uses nationality as a ruse to deny rights or confer privileges upon one group over another.”

Among other things, the new Basic Law officially defines Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people, asserts that "the realization of the right to national self-determination in Israel is unique to the Jewish people," and declares that Hebrew is the state's official language, downgrading the status of Arabic to a "special" language.

The Balad faction said it would intensify its struggle against the law by boycotting sessions in the parliament's plenum during the coming month.

“Balad regards this step as a deepening of its political struggle against the racist basic law,” a party statement said. “We see our parliamentary representation as part of a struggle. We will fight any policy that turns our representation into one that lacks any political contact or into a formalistic ritual by which we will not be able to influence policy relating to us or fight against entrenchment of racist policies that don’t recognize the Palestinian natives in this homeland.”

Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh said his fellow party members would also be giving their parliamentary speeches in Arabic, also in protest against the nation-state law.