“If I Gave Them Guns They Would Shoot Me.” An Interview With MK Haneen Zoabi

This interview originally appeared at Electronic Intifada:

On 13 July, the Israeli Knesset voted by a large margin to strip the parliamentary privileges of Haneen Zoabi, a member of the Palestinian Israeli party Balad. The measure was a punishment for Zoabi’s participation in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. As described in the Israeli daily Haaretz, during the raging debate, Member of Knesset (MK) Anasatassia Michaeli rushed toward Zoabi and handed her a mock Iranian passport with Zoabi’s photo on it. “Ms. Zoabi, I take your loyalty to Iran seriously and I suggest you contact Ahmadinejad and ask him to give you an Iranian diplomatic passport that will assist you with all your diplomatic incitement tours, because your Israeli passport will be revoked this evening,” said Michaeli, who is a member of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s explicitly anti-Arab Yisrael Beiteinu party.
The debate over revoking Zoabi’s parliamentary privileges was nearly as rancorous as her appearance at the Knesset speaker’s podium in the immediate wake of the Flotilla massacre. While Zoabi attempted to relate her experience on the Mavi Marmara, where she coaxed Israeli commandoes to stop shooting and beating passengers, Knesset members from a broad array of parties leapt from their chairs to shout her down. “Go to Gaza, traitor!” shouted MK Miri Regev of Likud. “One week in Gaza as a 38-year-old single woman and we’ll see how they treat you!” barked Yohanan Plesner of the supposedly centrist Kadima party. Finally, Moshe Mutz Matalon of Yisrael Beiteinu lamented that the Israeli commandoes “left only nine floating voters.”

I met Zoabi at her office in the bustling center of Lower Nazareth on 12 June. While preparing a spread of biscuits and chocolates for me, she told me that a reporter from Nablus who met her earlier in the day had been detained at a checkpoint and had her laptop seized. Zoabi was convinced that the Shin Bet (Israel’s General Security Service) was monitoring her communications and movements as it does with many Balad Party leaders. Despite the tense climate and violent threats against her, she spoke without restraint about her experience on the Mavi Marmara, the predicament of Palestinian members of the Knesset, and what she considered the fascist direction of Israeli society.

Max Blumenthal: Were you surprised to be greeted with such hostility when you returned to the Knesset after the flotilla incident?

Hanin Zoabi: I was not so surprised. I expected to be called traitor, to be asked, “Where are your knives?” Or to be told, “You are the one who killed them!” But they shouted at me without any political argument and such shallowness. I thought, this couldn’t be a parliament, these are just gangsters. If I gave them guns, they would shoot me. I said the soldiers on the flotilla treated me more respectfully than them. At least after the soldiers killed nine people they tried to ask me for help.

MB: What does the attack on you in Knesset say about Israeli democracy?

HZ: Israel has a general atmosphere of a fascist state that has no critical sense even of its image in the world. It used to be sensitive to its image of democracy. [Knesset Speaker Reuven] Rivlin wants a liberal state and wants others to believe Israel is a democracy. But listen to what they are saying in the Knesset: that we should only pay attention to what we want to; it’s not important to pay attention to the goyim. We must believe we are the victim as if victimhood is an ideology.

MB: Are you concerned about threats to your physical safety?

HZ: This is a dangerous time and it is dangerous for Jamal [Zehalka] and others in Balad. I am worried but what worries me more is not the personal threats but the long term political effect of this campaign because it represents a delegitimization of our party and our political platform.

MB: What about the planned measure in the Knesset to strip you of parliamentary privileges?

HZ: The three parliamentary sanctions are nothing — I mean nothing — because I can still use my civic passport.

MB: When you were attacked in the Knesset, I was reminded of an incident in 1949, when the first Arab member of Knesset, Tawfiq Toubi, took to the floor to denounce Israeli army brutality against Palestinian villagers living under military rule. Jewish members of the Knesset went crazy just as they did against you, but Toubi was defended by one of Israel’s most prominent cultural figures, the socialist poet Nathan Alterman. Did any prominent Israelis speak up in your defense, and if not, why not?

HZ: Hardly anyone spoke up for me. Jamal [Zehalka] said the Knesset is the worst we’ve ever had. The guards and the workers who’ve been around the Knesset for 30 years said it’s never been this racist before. I think when you have a government led by the likes of [Foreign Minister] Avigdor Lieberman it means that the extremists are not the margins of the Knesset, they are the mainstream. Those who shouted at me were from Kadima, not from the extreme right. Even [the traditionally left-wing party] Meretz is becoming very center. And because of this it has lost power.

[Knesset Speaker] Rivlin was more afraid of hurting the image of the Knesset than of my rights being violated. There are no limits and the famous slogan of Lieberman is now the slogan of everyone: “Citizenship depends on loyalty.” He of course means loyalty in a fascist sense. Even when [Interior Minister] Eli Yishai asked to revoke my citizenship there was only one article in the Israeli media saying that this was crazy. What kind of state is this? I read just one article about this!

[Yedioth Aharanot columnist] Amnon Levy was the only one who defended me. He said what’s happening is so absurd, you should thank Haneen that she is serving in this Zionist Knesset. You should thank the Palestinians for participating in our game.

MB: Is the anti-Arab atmosphere inside Israel a new phenomenon or the acceleration of a process than began some time ago?

HZ: This is not a new process, and it didn’t begin after the flotilla. It really began after the second intifada, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Israelis went to demonstrations not to rally about internal issues but to support the intifada. This was a clear message for Israelis that the state had failed to create the model of the new “Israeli Arab.” This is what the state was trying to do, trying to create us an Israeli Arab, someone who was not 100 percent Israeli because we were not Jews but of course not 100 percent Arab either. We were told we could preserve our language and our culture but not our historical memory, our culture, or our identity except on an emotional, romantic level. Essentially we couldn’t be Palestinian.

The second intifada was the turning point. It told Israel that it might control the schools, our history and the media but they couldn’t stop us from asserting our identity. This led directly to the declaration of Yuval Diskin, the Shin Bet director, who said in 2007, we will fight against any political activity that doesn’t recognize Israel as a Jewish state even if the activities are conducted openly and democratically. He clearly was referring to Balad when he said this. By the way, no Israeli paper was shocked by his statement.

MB: The founder of the Balad Party, Azmi Bishara, was forced into exile after being accused of spying for Hizballah. Ameer Makhoul, the Palestinian civil society leader in Israel, has been placed under administrative detention and is facing similar accusations. Omer Said and many other activists are under investigation by the Shin Bet. What is the government trying to accomplish by its crackdown?

HZ: They are trying to establish borders on our political identity and say that we cannot have relations with the broader Arab world. They want to redefine the margins of democracy to exclude any political program that calls for full equality. We are calling for equality without Zionism. This is what the Balad Party says. The fact is, to demand full civic and national equality is actually to demand the end of Zionism. So we don’t hate Zionism. Zionism hates democracy.

If the state continues in the direction it is going it will actually change the rules of the game. Balad says there are clear margins of democracy. We believe in democratic values and the system and we will utilize these margins of democracy in order to suggest our vision of full equality. If Israel wants to delete these margins so my vision can no longer be legitimate in the Israeli scene I think a totally different game will develop between us and the state. In this way, the state is pushing us to a crisis. If they disqualify Balad then no Arab party would enter the Knesset and this would provoke a huge crisis. Arabs without a parliamentary role would result in a different kind of relationship between us and the state. This would be the end of democracy. But we know this is what a Jewish state will lead to — the end of democracy is an inevitable outcome.

MB: How did your prominence after the flotilla impact the situation of Palestinians in Israel?

HZ: It is possible that the flotilla was the beginning of a new historical moment. Israel enjoys keeping us [Palestinians in Israel] out of the agenda of the world. They oppressed us behind the scenes just as they conducted the Nakba behind the scenes. They continued to limit our identity and the world didn’t treat us as part of the Palestinian issue because it believed that Israel was a democracy and we were only part of it. The world only looked at the siege of Gaza. So what the Knesset did by attacking me was they showed the world who they really are. And if the world starts to pay attention, especially the part of the world that doesn’t traditionally support the Palestinians and believes Israel should be a real democracy, I hope they see from the flotilla and its implications that Israel has a deep structural problem, not a problem of policies. The problem is not an extremist government. The problem is that the largest threat to Zionism is democracy. This is the issue.

12 thoughts on ““If I Gave Them Guns They Would Shoot Me.” An Interview With MK Haneen Zoabi

  1. melinda huntley

    What a brave woman, I salute her! Let’s hope more members of the Knesset will support her, otherwise Israel cannot even pretend to be a democracy.

  2. gd

    My toaster popped my whole wheat bread for my nutella (chocolate spread) snack when reading “While preparing a spread of biscuits and chocolates for me”, funny coincidence? One more compelling story for me to know my own connection to others crosses nationalities, religions, politics. More great work Max, keep well :)

  3. abba422

    I only wish we had more of her bravery in the world. A real political leader is one that says I will do the right thing no matter what, consequences be damned.
    This article and the incident in the Knesset only serves to reinforce what many of us have been saying for years… Israel is not a REAL Democracy as the rest of the world and the entirety of humanity defines it, it is a Jewish/ Zionist representative government, catering only to the interests of a certain population who has the correct religion/ traditions/ ethnicity.
    This is NOT a democracy, and certainly not the one that our American leaders constantly use to justify America’s debasing fealty to Israel.

  4. walt kovacs

    if a member of the us congress had pulled the same stunt, he/she would have been impeached, removed from office, tried and convicted as a traitor and then shot….and you know this

    there is a difference using one’s speech and using actions

    israel is a real democracy…how else did ms zoabi get elected?

  5. Barka

    # 4: ” if a member of the us congress had pulled the same stunt, he/she would have been impeached, removed from office, tried and convicted as a traitor and then shot…”

    What would be ‘the same stunt’ , or at least somewhat similar, for a US Rep.? Join an international convoy to deliver humanitarian aid to civilians in occupied Iraq or Afghanistan? Does anyone believe that this would result in impeachment, treason charges and the death penalty?

    Enlighten me if I’m wrong, but I can’t imagine this to be the case.

  6. poyani

    Walt Kovaks said

    “if a member of the us congress had pulled the same stunt, he/she would have been impeached, removed from office, tried and convicted as a traitor and then shot….and you know this

    there is a difference using one’s speech and using actions”

    LOL! No Walt, not every government acts Israeli.

    What Kovaks is saying is insanely idiotic and obviously untrue. For one thing, there were Americans on the siege breaking boats, including a former member of the US congress, Cynthia McKinney.

    None of the Americans were charged for anything, let alone tried. No one was convicted for anything, let alone for treason. And no one has even been jailed for a single day, let alone “shot”.

    Furthermore, the first article of the American bill of rights is more than just “free speech”. It states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    The right to peaceful assembly is clearly there. As long as Zogbi did not use violence, (which no one is claiming she did) she won’t be convicted for a crime in the US.

    Walt Kovaks continuing idiotic antics continue to entertain. I wonder what he’ll say next.

  7. poyani

    And what about Ken O’Keefe?

    He is a former Marine in the US military and served in the first Gulf War. He was on board the Mavi Marmarra, and used violence (unarmed) to defend the ship. He disarmed three IDF soldiers and threw their weapons overboard. In an interview afterward “We had in our full possession, three completely disarmed and helpless commandos. They were surrounded by at least 100 men. We could have done anything with them. The woman (volunteers on the ship) provided basic first aid, and ultimately they were released, battered and bruised for sure, but alive. Able to live another day.”

    After his capture and while in custody, he was severely beaten and tortured. When he was released, his face and body were severely bruised and bloody. The Israeli army made the ridiculous argument that he was on his way to “train” Hamas (a lie which even they didn’t believe since they let him go the next day).

    Ken O’Keefe was also one of the main organizers of the Human Shield movement before the invasion of Iraq. Western volunteers in Iraq including O’Keefe stood next to vital Iraqi civilian buildings (like the water treatment plants, Electrical generation plants, food storage) in order to prevent the US government from bombing them.

    Their campaign was remarkably successful. The US government, which did not want the bad publicity, did not bomb any sites which had western volunteers. They did however, bomb power plants, food silos, sewage treatment plants, and water treatment plants which were not protected by activists.

    To this day, Ken O’Keefe has not been charged for anything in the United States, further reducing Walt Kovaks’ claims to dust.

  8. walt kovacs

    poyani,

    thanks for showing how ignorant you are

    o’keefe gave up his american citizenship years ago. and he was never a congress person

    o’keefe was not tortured….but thanks for playing

    he chose to fly back to europe without washing his face

    and please…work on your reading comprehension

    if a congress person had pulled the same stunt….lets say trying to break an american blockade….lets say to cuba…that person would be impeached…tried, convicted and shot….for treason

    learn american law

  9. poyani

    Wat Kovacs wrote:

    “if a congress person had pulled the same stunt….lets say trying to break an american blockade….lets say to cuba…that person would be impeached…tried, convicted and shot….for treason

    learn american law”

    Congressmen Bobby L. Rush, Barbara Lee, and Emanuel Cleaver II visited Cuba along with many other members of the congressional black caucus, less than a year ago ,in violation of the embargo. Last I checked they are all free, alive and well. Many others have done the same before them.

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2009/04/congressional-caucus-members-meet-with-the-castro-cousins-in-cuba.html

    Another swing and a miss, eh Walt?

    Michael Moore visited Cuba as part of his documentary “Sicko”. Many other people have too, all in violation of the embargo. No one has been jailed.

  10. poyani

    In 2006, during the height of the Bush insanity, the following “congress person”s visited Cuba, in violation of the embargo:

    Jeff Flake, R-Arizona
    William Delahunt, D-Massachusetts
    Hilda Solis, D-California
    Jo Ann Emerson R-Missouri,
    Jerry Moran R-Kansas
    Michael Conaway R-Texas,
    Jane Harmon D-California
    Lincoln Davis D-Tennessee
    Gregory Meeks D-New York
    Jim McGovern D-Massachusetts

    So far none have been “impeached…tried, convicted and shot….for treason”.

    http://havanajournal.com/politics/entry/fidel-castro-and-us-congressional-trip-to-cuba-update/

    Things are looking worse Walt!

  11. assi81

    interesting piece..
    although i find that Zoabi’s actions were wrong – as she participated in what i find as a violent protest, i find the general fascist reaction in the israeli street very troubling.

  12. monclerjacketssale

    moncler
    moncler jacket
    montcler jackets
    moncler coats
    moncler coats sale
    giubbotti moncler
    moncler uomo
    moncler sales
    moncler sale
    punti vendita moncler
    moncler daunenjacke
    moncler roma
    moncler winterjas
    moncler winterjassen
    moncler coat
    moncler down jackets
    moncler vest sale
    moncler down jacket
    moncler torino
    moncler jacket women
    moncler ski
    moncler jacket sale
    moncler jackets on sale
    moncler jackets for women
    moncler mens
    moncler dames
    moncler jackets for men
    moncler vanoise
    moncler mantel
    moncler jas dames
    moncler down coat
    abbigliamento moncler
    moncler ski jackets
    moncler herren
    moncler clothes
    moncler price
    moncler veste
    mountain equipment down jacket
    moncler munchen
    moncler discount
    manteau moncler
    moncler discount
    moncler damen
    felpe moncler
    moncler jackets for kids
    moncler kaufen
    moncler
    moncler sauterne
    pink moncler
    moncler coats for women
    moncler shirts
    moncler coats sale
    moncler schweiz
    moncler nantes hooded down coat
    moncler outerwear
    moncler vest men
    moncler deutschland
    moncler coats for men
    moncler shirt
    moncler winter jacket
    moncler sizing
    moncler coats on sale
    moncler sizing
    moncler berlin
    moncler tibet vest
    mens moncler coats
    cheap moncler coats
    moncler down jacket women
    moncler jackets online
    moncler winterjacken
    moncler jassen te koop
    moncler coats for kids
    moncler winterjacken
    moncler jassen te koop
    moncler ski wear
    moncler tulsa jacket
    moncler down vest
    moncler vest for women
    moncler herrenjacke
    moncler coats for cheap
    moncler herrenjacke
    real moncler jackets
    moncler kindermode
    moncler zomerjas
    moncler leather jackets
    moncler summer jacket
    moncler spring jackets
    moncler down jacket
    moncler jackets for men
    moncler coats
    moncler ski jackets
    leather jackets
    moncler jacket
    mens leather jackets
    moncler jackets on sale
    moncler jackets for women
    moncler down jackets
    moncler uomo
    moncler outerwear
    moncler daunenjacke
    moncler spring jackets
    moncler roma
    moncler weste
    moncler discount
    moncler down coat
    moncler torino
    moncler vest men
    moncler munchen
    moncler price
    moncler jacket women
    moncler leather jackets
    moncler sales
    moncler sauterne
    moncler mens
    montcler jacken
    montclair ski jackets
    manteau moncler
    moncler jassen te koop
    abbigliamento moncler
    moncler sweater
    moncler ski wear
    moncler herren
    moncler schweiz
    moncler sizing
    moncler schweiz
    moncler sizing
    moncler zomerjas
    felpe moncler
    moncler tibet vest
    moncler dames
    moncler jas dames
    moncler deutschland
    moncler k2 jacket
    moncler winterjassen
    moncler berlin
    moncler down jacket women
    real moncler jackets
    moncler winterjacken
    moncler kindermode
    moncler damen
    moncler clothes
    moncler herrenjacke
    moncler winter jacket
    moncler winterjas
    moncler kaufen
    moncler coats
    moncler down jacket
    moncler jackets for men
    moncler coats for men
    moncler coat
    moncler coats for women
    moncler ski jackets
    moncler vest
    moncler jackets on sale
    moncler coats for kids
    moncler trench coat
    moncler men
    moncler vest men
    moncler bubble jacket
    moncler jacket
    moncler down jackets
    mens moncler coats
    giubbotti moncler
    moncler roma
    moncler daunenjacke
    moncler coats on sale
    moncler mantel
    moncler shirts
    moncler discount
    moncler torino
    moncler tulsa jacket
    moncler coats for cheap
    moncler jackets for women
    moncler weste
    moncler nantes hooded down coat
    moncler vanoise
    moncler munchen
    moncler summer jacket
    mountain equipment down jacket
    punti vendita moncler
    moncler ski
    moncler sales
    moncler mens
    montcler jacken
    moncler sizing
    manteau moncler
    moncler ski wear
    moncler jassen te koop
    moncler tibet vest
    moncler herren
    moncler schweiz
    moncler zomerjas
    felpe moncler
    moncler jackets online
    moncler sweater
    cheap moncler coats
    pink moncler
    moncler dames
    moncler jas dames
    moncler winterjassen
    moncler raincoat
    moncler shirt
    moncler winterjacken
    moncler damen
    moncler kindermode
    moncler vest for women
    moncler jacket sale
    moncler günstig
    moncler jacket women
    moncler herrenjacke
    moncler ski pants
    moncler winterjas
    moncler down vest
    Moncler Womens Coats
    2010 ladies newest moncler jackets black
    2010 ladies newest moncler jackets orange
    2010 ladies newest moncler jackets pure blue
    2010 ladies newest moncler jackets purple
    2010 ladies newest moncler jackets red
    Moncler Lucie Pop Star Jacket Black
    Moncler Lucie Pop Star Jacket Black 2
    Moncler Lucie Pop Star Jacket Brown
    Moncler Lucie Pop Star Jacket Chocolate
    Moncler Lucie Pop Star Jacket DarkOrchid
    Moncler Lucie Pop Star Jacket Purple
    Moncler Lucie Pop Star Jacket White
    Moncler Womens Jacket
    Ladies Moncler Fashion Down Coat Black
    Ladies Moncler Fashion Down Coat Blue
    Ladies Moncler Fashionable Down Coat Blue
    Ladies Moncler Fashionable Down Coat Brown
    Ladies Moncler Fashionable Down Coat Purple
    Ladies Moncler Fashionable Down Coat White
    MONCLER LIGHT NYLON SALLA DOWN JACKET
    Moncler Badia Very Shiny Black
    Moncler Women Classical Style Beige Down Coat
    Moncler Women Classical Style Black Down Coat
    Moncler Women Classical Style Blue Down Coat
    Moncler Mens Coats
    Fashion Moncler doudoune Rabbit men coats Cover buttocks
    Long Moncler Down Coats for men’s
    Moncler Cheap Opaque Sport Jacket
    Moncler Coats Hooded down mid length men Coffee
    Moncler Coats Hooded down mid length men Dark
    Moncler Coats men Hooded down jackets dark green
    Moncler Coats men Hooded down jackets nevy blue
    Moncler Discount Jackets 2010 Men Down Jacket
    Moncler Discount Sheepskin&Feather short Down black shop all Mon
    Moncler Down Coat men Hooded mid-length black
    Moncler down jacket man with hooded zip black
    Moncler Jackets Affton Half length Men Brown
    Moncler long down Coat brown
    Moncler long down Coat brown Gray
    Moncler long men down jackets Zegna grey
    Moncler Men Long Down Coats Grey
    Moncler Mens Jacket
    Branson Navy Mens Moncler Jackets Dark Blue
    Branson Navy Moncler Men Jackets Black
    Chartreuse Down Mens Moncler Jackets Grey
    Moncler Arcs Jacket black
    Moncler Aspen Down Jackets Black
    Moncler Branson Down Jacket Grey
    Moncler Bredford Jacket black
    Moncler Bulgarie Jacket black
    Moncler Bulgarie Jacket Brown
    Moncler Chamonix Jacket
    Moncler Chevalier Jacket black
    Moncler Down Jacket
    Moncler For Men Anderson Parka
    Moncler Himalaya Jacket black
    Moncler Himalaya Jacket doudoune brillante veste taille Brown
    Moncler Himalaya Jacket White
    Moncler Himalaya Jacket White
    Moncler Jackets For Men "Christmas Edition" Down Black
    Moncler K2 Jacket 3 Outwear Grey
    Moncler Maya Hooded Parka Navy
    Moncler Maya Jacket black
    Moncler Maya Jacket Purple
    Moncler Men Down Jacket Blue
    Moncler Men Down Jacket – Grey
    Moncler Men Down-Hat Jacket
    Moncler Men Down-No Hat Jacket
    Moncler Men Jacket -leon navy
    Moncler Mens Jacket Blue
    Moncler Mens Jackets Black
    Moncler Striped Technical Menuire Sport Jacket
    Quilted Moncler Ski Jackets with hood
    Moncler Men Sweater
    Moncler 90% of wool Sweater Gray men
    Moncler 90% of wool Sweater green men
    Moncler 90% of wool Sweater green men
    Moncler Cardigan 90% of wool Sweater black men
    Moncler men 90% of wool Sweater Black
    Moncler men 90% of wool Sweater Black
    Moncler men 90% of wool Sweater Black
    Moncler men 90% of wool Sweater Green and white
    Moncler men 90% of wool Sweater grey
    Moncler men 90% of wool Sweater grey
    Moncler men 90% of wool Sweater shallow and white
    Moncler men 90% of wool Sweater yellow and purple
    Moncler men black 90% of wool Sweater
    Moncler Sweater men black 90% of wool Sweater
    Moncler Sweater men black 90% of wool Sweater
    Moncler Sweater men black 90% of wool Sweater
    Moncler Sweater men blue 90% of wool Sweater
    Moncler Vest
    2010 new Moncler Vests For Women fur down gilet/vest Blue
    2010 new Moncler women fur down gilet/vest Black
    2010 new Moncler women fur down gilet/vest Purple
    2010 new Moncler women fur down gilet/vest Red
    Moncler Milano Multiple logo Women Vest Cream
    Moncler Multiple logo Women Vest Black
    Moncler Multiple logo Womens Vest Beige
    Moncler Multiple logo Womens Vest Black
    Moncler Tibet Vest – Quilted body warmer Navy
    Moncler vest sale waistcoat blue
    Moncler Spring Autumn
    Fashion Men Moncler Spring Autumn Jacket black
    Fashion Men Moncler Winter & Autumn Jacket black
    Fashion Men Moncler Winter & Autumn Jacket black
    Fashion moncler halesia women Spring Autumn Jacket Blue
    Fashion Moncler Men Spring Autumn Jacket blue
    Fashion Moncler Men Spring Autumn Jacket Cream
    Fashion Moncler Men Spring Autumn Jacket white
    Fashion Moncler women Spring Autumn Jacket black
    Fashion Moncler women Spring Autumn Jacket Gary
    Fashion Moncler women Spring Autumn Jacket Purple
    Fashion Moncler women Spring Autumn Jacket
    Fashion Moncler women Spring Autumn Jacket white
    Moncler Polo

Leave a Reply