Haneen Zoabi, the Perfect Scapegoat

The provocative Member of Knesset serves the right wing, the left wing, the media and misogynists alike.

Yariv Oppenheimer
Yariv Oppenheimer
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Balad MK Haneen Zoabi in the Knesset.Credit: Knesset Channel
Yariv Oppenheimer
Yariv Oppenheimer

How convenient for the right wing to have Haneen Zoabi, who serves as an expedient tool for delegitimizing Israeli Arabs and the entire left, presenting them as a knife in the nation’s back. Knesset member Zoabi (Balad) is convenient for the left as well, affording them the chance to join the outrage and condemnation, thus proving to the right that the left too is patriotic and loyal to the state. Zoabi also serves misogynists and closet male chauvinists, who can attack her while restoring to public discourse expressions that would no longer be tolerated when uttered against any other woman. How convenient for the media to have a scapegoat, a national voodoo doll that allows any journalist or interviewer to lash out at her as he pleases, while scoring public approval.

Zoabi’s statement, which denounced the kidnapping but stopped short of calling the abductors terrorists, is twisted and offensive. The kidnapping of civilians, especially of children and teenagers, is an unacceptable act of terror which flies in the face of any values dear to anyone supporting the end of the occupation. There can be no sympathy for the kidnapping, just as there can be no tolerance for acts of retribution or murder of Arabs by Jews.

However, one should remember that Zoabi’s words reflect the feelings of many Israeli Arabs and Palestinians, who see the ever-increasing number of dead Palestinians, shot by the army, as well as the hundreds of administrative detainees, the rising tide of racism in Israeli society and the weekly celebration of settlers over the erection of one more neighborhood deep within the territories.

For many Israelis, the kidnapping seemed to occur in a vacuum, as an act of pure unmitigated evil. For many Palestinians, it was a result of the ongoing frustration and pain inflicted by the Israeli occupation of the territories, which only seems to be getting further entrenched. When two Palestinians are killed by Israel Defense Forces gunfire in front of cameras at a demonstration in Beitunya and the army totally disregards the incident, some Palestinians see the kidnapping of the teens as a symmetrical quid pro quo. When Israel holds hundreds of Palestinians under administrative detention without trial, while legislating measures for force feeding those among them who go on hunger strike, many Palestinians view the kidnapping as understandable and even justified.

One should condemn Zoabi’s statement, but one should also listen to its content and try to understand how things are perceived by the other side. Zoabi’s latest statement ended up serving those who are opposed to withdrawing from the territories, further plugging up Israeli ears.

Prosecuting her and revoking her immunity will serve all sides, right and left, extremists among Israeli Arabs and Kahane supporters among Jews. The only victim of such a move will be Israeli democracy, along with the hope of living here side by side.