Disqualifying Zuabi, Forgetting Zionism

Israel's leaders, represented on the Central Election Committee that disqualified Balad party MK Hanin Zuabi, are not interested in remembering Zionism as a liberation movement.

Dmitry Shumsky
Dmitry Shumsky
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Dmitry Shumsky
Dmitry Shumsky

While the Central Elections Committee has disqualified MK Hanin Zuabi's candidacy for the 19th Knesset, it has let the Arab slates Balad and United Arab List-Ta'al contend. These two decisions might assuage Israelis for whom the country's image as a democracy is dear. These Israelis will say to themselves, "See, while one wayward MK's candidacy was annulled, the validity of the parties that represent the Israeli Arab community was reaffirmed."

But let's not kid ourselves: Zuabi's disqualification is an attempt to silence the small national minority of Arab Palestinians in Israel.

One could assume that given the oppression of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza, most Palestinians who are Israeli citizens believe that their national pride is being trampled on a daily basis. But since the civil unrest of October 2000, in which 13 people were shot dead by the Israel Police, Palestinians who are Israeli citizens don't dare organize a protest against the subjugation of their brethren on the other side of the Green Line.

It is this voice of protest that Zuabi expresses with extraordinary courage and determination - and she does it practically alone. The efforts of the other Arab MKs combined do not equal the efforts of this one MK.

According to the colonialist thinking that typifies large swaths of the Israeli leadership, Palestinian Israelis ought to be grateful to the Israeli Jewish sovereign for the very fact they have Israeli citizenship. They should tone down their "extreme nationalist" concerns about the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and focus on repairing the sewage pipes in their villages with the budgets the Jewish state has graciously allotted them.

If these Israeli officials had bothered to read the writings of Pinsker, Herzl, Nordau or Ahad Ha'am and noticed the call to restore the Jewish people's national pride suppressed in the Diaspora, maybe they would understand that it's impossible to demand that a humiliated national minority not battle against its degradation.

If those behind Zuabi's targeted political assassination were even vaguely familiar with the history of the Zionist movement, maybe they would see her participation in the flotilla that protested the choking confinement of her brethren in Gaza as an act of national courage. Maybe they would see it as an act comparable, in the deepest sense, to the Zionists' protests in the Soviet Union during the 1970s against Soviet Jewry's confinement behind the Iron Curtain.

But Israel's current leaders, whose positions were honorably represented on the committee that disqualified Zuabi, aren't interested in remembering Zionism as a liberation movement of an oppressed and degraded people. On the contrary, they rebuff this heritage daily and try to replace it for future generations with a totally different heritage - that of a nationalist sovereign people that oppresses and degrades.

It's not right for a member of the oppressing national majority to give advice to members of the oppressed national minority. But as a researcher of the national movement of that most persecuted of peoples, and as a member of a national minority who was oppressed in my native land and who experienced degradation based on nationality daily, I will let myself say the following to the Palestinian Arab MKs.

If the Supreme Court decides, heaven forbid, to join the gang that spurns Zionism's heritage as the movement of an oppressed national minority and approves Zuabi's invalid disqualification, all Arab MKs from all Israeli parties should withdraw their candidacies for the 19th Knesset.

Free of representatives of the Palestinian minority, which is what the colonialist-nationalist Jewish right prefers, the Israeli parliament will reflect the trend of 21st-century Israel, which more and more resembles the ethnocentric, anti-Semitic eastern and central European countries of the 20th century. Maybe this shocking vision would be enough to wake up those slumbering Israeli Jews for whom authentic Zionist values are dear.

Israeli Arab lawmaker Haneen Zoabi speaks at a news conference in Jerusalem, December 19, 2012. Credit: Reuters

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