Palestinian citizen of Israel Haneen Zoabi, who was elected to the Israeli Knesset in 2009, will embark on a speaking tour of Ireland next week according to a press release from the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC).The Palestine News Network (PNN) reported that Zoabi is the first Palestinian woman in Israel to represent an Arab-Palestinian political party in Israel and has been an outspoken critic of Israeli government policy. As such, she has herself come under attack.
She has been called a “traitor” and a “terrorist” by fellow parliamentarians, has received death threats and was even physically assaulted by a colleague. She was shot in the back and neck in 2010 with rubber coated steel bullets by Israeli police during a demonstration against extremists. The Israeli Interior Minister, Eli Yishai also demanded that her Israeli citizenship be revoked along with her parliamentary immunity. While this has not happened as of yet, the Knesset has removed several of her privileges, including the right to participate in discussions and to vote in parliamentary committees.
She earned her reputation following the deadly Israeli raid on the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza in 2010. Zoabi was on board the Mavi Marmar ship when it was attacked by Israeli commandos, and she condemned the raid in the Knesset as “a pirate military operation.”
Ms. Zoabi campaigns to end the occupation of the Palestinian Territories and grant full legal rights to all citizens of Israel. She believes that Zionism is inherently racist and uses the more than 30 Israeli laws that legally discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel. She has led the fight against loyalty oaths for Israel’s non-Jewish minorities and Admission Committees, which are groups that legally discriminate against Palestinians in the housing sector using tactics similar to the old practice of redlining in the United States. She also brings a much needed feminist voice to discussions about equality.
Zoabi speaks about the fight for equal rights for Palestinians saying, “The problem is not simply the terms of citizenship: we want to be equal to the Jews, but also, as the indigenous people, this homeland belongs to us. I want to be equal not because I immigrated or because I’m a citizen. Primarily I want to be equal because it is my homeland and nobody has the right to take it away.”
She also calls on Israeli feminists to oppose the occupation saying, “We can’t call ourselves feminists if we occupy other women, demolish their homes, force them to live under a blockade, support settlement expansion, and then come home and talk about women’s rights.’
Haneen Zoabi will tour Ireland beginning Monday August 6th through Friday August 10th. She will speak in Dublin, Derry, Belfast and Cork and will have both public and private meetings with politicians, NGOs, trade unions, and activists.
She continues to work for justice despite her difficulties because in her words, “I was not elected to keep silent or to sit at the table and clap’.