Opinion |

Now They’ve Decided to Disqualify Me

היבא יזבק - צרובה
Heba Yazbak
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Arab lawmaker Heba Yazbak speaks at the Knesset, Jerusalem.
Arab lawmaker Heba Yazbak speaks at the Knesset, Jerusalem. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
היבא יזבק - צרובה
Heba Yazbak

In the past 20 years, not a single Israeli election campaign has gone untouched by the delegitimization and political persecution of Arab MKs. In the most recent election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his gang tried to turn all Arab citizens into suspects, by demanding the installation of cameras at polling stations. The Joint List managed to prevent the initiative.

An integral part of the persecution is the ritual of the Central Elections Committee discussing requests to disqualify Arab slates and their candidates. These discussions were designed to promote messages of hatred, and are used as a tool to silence the legitimate demand for full civic and national equality.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 58

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The right decided to focus on me this time, by means of its populistic emphasis on two messages that I posted five and seven years ago, long before I was elected to the Knesset. The public uproar included disinformation, distortions and incitement, as well as statements attributed to me that I never made. The right did so because they don’t want to deal with my political messages and those of the Joint List.

As a member of the Israeli Knesset for whom it is important to conduct a meaningful discussion with the entire public, I would like to put things straight, and to explain my ethical viewpoint.

The subjects of my two posts were Samir Kuntar and Dalal Mughrabi. Neither of those posts was meant to express support for their actions. I’m against harming human beings, period, and the attempt by extremists to claim that I’m in favor of hurting children or blowing up buses is absurd and disgusting.

I wrote the post about Kuntar after he was assassinated in December 2015. The post, which was published on my private Facebook page, in Arabic, was meant to express criticism of the policy of targeted assassinations, which runs contrary to international law.

I have no doubt that not a single person among the readers of the post, Arabic speakers, understood it as support for the terror attack carried out by Kuntar in Israel. I have repeated these things many times in the media, in Arabic and Hebrew.

Context is also important in understanding the post about Mughrabi.

In March 2013, prior to International Women’s Day, women’s organizations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip decided that the day would be devoted to the place of women in public life.

The decision led to vocal opposition on the part of conservative groups, who find it difficult to recognize the place of women in society generally, and in the Palestinian national struggle specifically.

I wrote the post in connection to that, and out of defiance for those conservatives. The agitation of a fiery debate sometimes leads to rhetoric that differs from the kind we would use in other circumstances.

Heba Yazbak at the Balad's offices in Nazareth, March 25, 2019. “Bibi is the one destroying the country,” not Arab lawmakers, she charges.Credit: Gil Eliahu

Today I would certainly have expressed myself differently.

The Arab political leadership in Israel calls for integrating young people into politics, and teaches against the use of violence as a political tool.

That is also my way, that of my party, Balad, and of the Joint List.

There is more than a little irony in the fact that I and my political partners find ourselves time and again under attack by those for whom occupation, oppression and harassment are routine.

If the primary concern of those who want to silence me were really the prevention of violence and of harming the innocent, they would focus their efforts on putting an end to the main causes of it: Jewish supremacy, and the cruel occupation and siege on my people.

Despite the political persecution against me, I will continue to act in accordance with my principles and objectives: Achieving peace and building a just and equal society for all. They will never succeed in disqualifying that.

The writer is an MK for the Balad party in the Joint List faction.

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