Israeli committee bars Haneen Zoabi from upcoming elections

Israel/Palestine
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Zoabi Haneen Zoabi, on the right, tries to speak as Anastassia Michaeli of the Yisrael Beteinu party is escorted off of the podium (David Vaaknin/AP)

The most prominent Israeli citizen of Palestinian descent in the Israeli Knesset was disqualified today from participating in next month’s elections. Haneen Zoabi, a Member of Knesset (MK) from the Balad party, was barred due to a decision by the Israeli Central Election Committee. 

The committee also declined to disqualify two Palestinian political parties–Balad and United Arab List. 

YNet News reports that “Nineteen committee members voted in favor of disqualifying Zoabi, nine opposed and one member abstained.” The deck was stacked against Zoabi–many of the committee members were right-wing politicians.

Zoabi was barred because of her involvement in the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, where Israeli naval commandoes stormed a Gaza aid flotilla and killed 9 activists. Zoabi was part of the flotilla. 

The case now goes to the Israeli Supreme Court. +972 Magazine‘s Noam Sheizaf explains that the court is likely to overturn the decision:

Chances are that the Supreme Court will indeed let Zoabi run (I am pretty sure that some of the MKs who voted against her had this in mind). Israeli law actually makes it harder to prevent a specific candidate, rather than an entire party, from running, and the evidence against him or her needs to be very strong. This is not the case with Zoabi. Earlier this week, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein issued an opinion claiming there is not enough evidence to disqualify Zoabi. It is thus very unlikely that even the current Supreme Court, which is more conservative then previous ones, will take a different position.

In the unlikely scenario that Zoabi is disqualified, a boycott – at least partial – of the elections by Palestinian citizens of Israel is likely. Such a scenario won’t only change the outcome of the vote, but would also be a watershed moment between Arab and Jewish citizens in Israel, the significance of which will be felt long after these elections.

Zoabi recently published an essay on Mondoweiss taken from the foreword to Ben White’s book Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy. Here’s an excerpt from that piece:

The argument that the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians is one of a conflict with a racist settler project that was founded on notions of ethnic purity is understood implicitly by all Palestinians. We Palestinians were quick to comprehend the relationship between ourselves – as indigenous inhabitants of this land – and those who came to take our place (in every sense) without even considering a common life with or alongside us, and without acknowledging that which had gone before them.

The core issue is not a shift in paradigm so much as a return to an old paradigm, that which dominated the Palestinian national liberation movement at least ten years prior to Oslo. I am a member of the political party that has revived this ‘new/old’ paradigm, as a part of a larger Palestinian political project. The focus of this project moved from the Diaspora – previously the heart of the Palestinian national movement – to the West Bank and Gaza Strip following the First Intifada, before shifting once again to rest on a group that had been regarded as marginal to, or even outside, the Palestinian national movement: the Palestinians whom Israel didn’t expel in 1948.

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