Why MK Haneen Zoabi Is a True Palestinian Hero

The recent scenes in the Knesset, when the Joint List lawmaker was assailed on all sides, forces me to put aside previous differences her struggle against racism and fascism.

MK Haneen Zoabi being removed from the podium at the Knesset, February 8, 2016.
Emil Salman

Fair disclosure: Until 2011 I was an active member of Balad. But in the wake of the world war launched against Syria and the party leadership’s support of the “cannibals’ revolution” there, I decided to leave the party. At the same time, I was highly critical of some of my former colleagues, many of whom lined up behind the enemies of the Arab nation in general, and of Syria in particular: imperialism under the leadership of global terror superpower the United States, Zionist Israel and the Arab forces of reaction.

As a result of my harsh criticism of Balad’s Knesset members, the latter decided to boycott me – including by refusing to send me press releases. How ironic: Balad MKs Haneen Zoabi, Jamal Zahalka and Basel Ghattas aim their poisoned arrows of criticism at the “dictatorship” in Syria, while in the same breath censoring a Palestinian-Arab journalist. Opportunism at its best.

Despite it all, when Zoabi declares from the Knesset podium that the soldiers in the Shayetet 13 naval commando unit are murderers (after they stormed the Mavi Marmara boat en route to Gaza in May 2010, killing nine Turkish passengers), I cannot remain on the fence. Instead, I must express my unreserved support for her, as my conscience demands.

The horror show in the Knesset last Wednesday is the best possible illustration of the fact that Israeli racism has crossed all the red lines and is rushing toward fascism. I watched the broadcast several times. It was shocking, to say the least. If not for the intervention of the Knesset Guard, there would have been casualties. The first would have been Zoabi, who sought only to express her principled stance, clearly and openly.

The MKs, who ought to set an example for tolerance between the two peoples, looked like a bunch of thugs. Verbal violence is little different from physical violence. My eye was caught by the sight of MK Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid), a retired police commander, lunging toward Zoabi as if to remind all those with short and selective memories that Arabs understand only force. He probably still sees himself as an officer who needs to “take care of” Arab rioters.

I do not pity Zoabi; rather, I want to encourage and support her. Why oh why are you Israelis unwilling to hear our absolute truth? After all, MKs from across the political spectrum have said terrible, racist things about Arabs and proposed laws against them. We have long since become the most popular sport in the Zionist legislature, and it’s all business as usual: The laws pass and we suffer. But my not-dear Israelis, chill out: We shall not leave our homeland of Palestine. We were here before you and we shall remain after you. And one more very important thing: Israel is not my state. I feel no sense of belonging – not to the flag, nor to the national anthem, nor to the symbols of “the state of the Jews.”

The vast majority of Israeli media outlets exploited Zoabi’s speech to incite against the Palestinians who are fated to live in Israel. “Israeli Arabs” thus became the main headline in the local press. The alleged incitement ascribed to Zoabi pales before the smear campaign in the media against the true owners of this soil – the Palestinian Arabs. The deadly combination of the racism of Israeli MKs and the Hebrew media, which happily accompanies them, is the best recipe for deepening the rift between Jews and Arabs in this land.

I have been young, and now am old. I believed in coexistence, but he who confesses and forsakes his transgressions shall obtain mercy: Our struggle today focuses on our survival in our homeland. Coexistence was murdered in cold blood by Israel’s successive governments. MK Zoabi, continue your struggle against racism and fascism. I and many others will support you to the end.

The writer is a Palestinian-Arab commentator.