Controversial Israeli Arab Lawmaker Haneen Zoabi Won't Run for Reelection

Zoabi (Joint List) says 'the time has come to change my place' after being subject to 'character assassination and ongoing incitement'

Haneen Zoabi at a meeting of Balad lawmakers, December 24, 2018.
Oren Ben Hakoon

MK Haneen Zoabi (Joint List) said Saturday that she would not be running in Israel's upcoming election.

Zoabi told the central committee of her faction, Balad, that after 10 years in office, “the time has come to change [my] place, but not the way, to strengthen the model of Balad, for the sake of a stronger Palestinian generation, a more stubborn struggle, and believe that justice will be done,” she said.

According to Zoabi, she has been subject to “character assassination, ongoing incitement, unceasing attempts to make me disappear, to silence me, to distort my opinions and even my image, to disqualify me to distance me from the political arena.” But she said all of these “for me were a mark of ‘very good’ given me by all those against whom and against whose opinions I am fighting.”

Zoabi said she was proud of her actions, and that she had “represented the vision of Balad, the authentic voice of the victim, the truth and justice of the struggle of my people, according to my moral and intellectual integrity.”

Zoabi, who was a member of the last three Knessets, was a controversial figure. In May 2010, she joined the Mavi Marmara flotilla from Turkey to the Gaza Strip, which was taken over by the Israeli navy. A year later, the Knesset ethics committee suspended Zoabi for two weeks because of her participation in the flotilla.

Zoabi said Saturday that the Mavi Marmara “was not the name of a ship or a political voyage, but rather the title of a struggle that I must wage, and it should be waged on a day to day basis against colonialist treatment and action.”

In July 2014, the Knesset Ethics committee once more suspended Zoabi, this time for six months, from Knesset plenary sessions and committee meetings. The committee’s decision was made following a series of contentious statements, among them that the Palestinians who abducted three Israeli teens in the West Bank were not terrorists. 

Before the elections to the last Knesset, a decision by the Central Elections Committee to disqualify Zoabi’s candidacy was overturned by the High Court of Justice. In March 2018, Zoabi was suspended for a week from Knesset plenary sessions and committee meetings after she called Israeli soldiers murderers.

Zoabi was also involved in the promotion of laws to improve the status of women and frequently attended meetings of Knesset committees on domestic violence. She raised a number of bills related to social action, particularly to assist the Arab community in Israel. She was one of the framers of an amendment to a law on equality for persons with disabilities, which passed in 2016.

Zoabi is not the only member of the Joint List not to run in the upcoming election. Last week, her faction colleague in Balad, MK Jamal Zahalka. announced he was stepping down, as did Dov Khenin of Hadash and Masud Ganaim of the United Arab List.