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Hanin Zoabi disqualified from Israeli elections over a mistranslation gone too far

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After a half-year suspension and a campaign to remove leading Arab member of Knesset Hanin Zoabi from office, right-wing parties succeeded in disqualifying her from Israeli elections next month. Yesterday 27 of Zoabi’s peers in the Central Election Committee, a working group inside of Knesset, decided she and hardline candidate Baruch Marzel had carried out incitement against Israel. Only six members of the Arab list and the far-left party Meretz voted to keep Zoabi in the running. By contrast, Marzel was voted out by 17 members of Israel’s parliament.

Both cases will now be reviewed by Israel’s high court. Zoabi’s candidacy is presumed likely to be reinstated as the charges against her stem from a mistranslated statement made during a radio interview last summer.

With the majority of representatives against her, Zoabi’s hearing yesterday was rocky. During her testimony she was heckled by other representatives, with one crying out, “you have the blood of our soldiers on your hands,” reported Israel’s YNet News.  Zoabi did not hold back in response: “Those attempting to get me banned, they are the ones who should be here. These racists need to be stopped, we should not be holding ceremonies for revenge and incitement like the ones the Arab MKs are forced to undergo on a daily basis,” she said, continuing, “You are not judging me, but the entire idea of Arab representation.”

An unexpected backer for her ouster came from the Labor-Hatuna union, dubbed the Zionist Camp. That was the tipping point against Zoabi. At the same time, the centrist group also endorsed a separate campaign to remove rightist Baruch Marzel of the formally of the banned Kach party, which under the leadership of the late nationalist rabbi Meir Kahane called for the use of vigilante violence against Palestinians. Both Zoabi and Marzel were labeled as “extremists, from opposite ends of the political spectrum,” by the the Zionist Camp. It further declared the two guilty of “incitement, racism and hatred, to the point where it threatens democracy.” The centrist Yesh Atid, headed by prime minister hopeful Yair Lapid, also supported both proposals.

Labor’s backing of the measure elicited charges of pandering to the right-wing bloc. A statement by Meretz, reported in the Times of Israel, said, “The Zionist Camp has joined the shrill right-wing chorus of Zoabi-rejecters. Hanin Zoabi pushes the boundaries of free speech with problematic statements, and yet the attorney general concluded that such statements do not constitute support for terrorism and that he consequently does not support her disqualification.”

A lone dissident in the right-wing camp came from Likud’s Dr. Anat Berko who spoke in opposition to her party’s support of the ouster. “Democracy has to also absorb people such as [Zoabi],” she said to the Knesset Channel. “Zoabi needs to be in the Knesset.”

Supporting Hamas, mistranslated

The charge sheet presented against Zoabi to the election committee Thursday was muddied with the same flaws as her temporary censure issued last June. She is accused of supporting Hamas, evidenced by a mistranslation of a statement given during a radio interview over the summer–the same statement that caused her suspension. Zoabi was thought to have celebrated the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in June near Hebron by a cell with Hamas ties, eliciting calls of incitement and support to an enemy of Israel.

At the time Larry Derfner reported Zoabi did not refuse to call the abductors “terrorists,” nor did she laud their deed, as her colleagues had argued. Derfner said, rather a “media hit-job” marred with mistranslations and truncated quotes was mounted. Zoabi said of the culprits in the wake of the slayings: “They are not terrorists. Even if I do not agree with them, they are people who do not see any way open to change their reality, and they are compelled to use means like these until Israel wakes up and sees the suffering, feels the suffering of the other.”

Derfner noted Israeli dailies misreported what Zoabi had said. Yehidoth Ahronoth quoted her, “They are not terrorists. I don’t agree with you, they are people,” and Ma’ariv published, “I don’t agree with acts like these, but even if the youths are murdered, that’s not terror.” The mistranslated and truncated quotes were then re-printed throughout Israeli media with the exception of Haaretz and +972 Magazine (where Derfrner reports).

Pressure against her cooked last summer. Peers in Knesset lobbied insisted that she supported the killings of the three Israelis. For Palestinians, Operation Brother’s Keeper in the West Bank was the most intensive period of Israeli raids since the second Intifada. In that climate, Knesset members relayed the incorrect quotes attributed to Zoabi as a manifesto from a turncoat.

“We are angry at Zuabi because in these difficult moments of solidarity,” [sic] wrote Likud’s Moshe Feiglin on his blog last June, “precisely at these intense national moments, this evil woman comes and adds insult to injury. We are furious, justifiably so.”

By the end of January the campaign against Zoabi hit a crescendo. Three petitions were filed to bar Zoabi from running in Israel’s upcoming March elections by Likud, Avigdor Lieberman’s Bayit Yehudi, and by Likud’s Danny Danon. The complaints fingered Zoabi as a Hamas supporter, which a crime in Israel. Overwhelmingly members of Knesset singed onto the call for Zoabi’s removal. But until last week the move to censure her from elections was only favored by the right-wing bloc, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud.

Perhaps there has never been a figure in Israeli politics more controversial than Zoabi. She has protested the government, attempted to break the siege on Gaza by boarding the Mavi Marmara and encouraged Palestinian citizens of Israel to seek a “state for all of its citizens,” the platform of her Balad party, a self-described nationalist group running on a joint list with other Arab parties and Hadash, a Jewish-Arab communist union.

Speaking to Al Jazeera the day before her censure hearing, Zoabi said the campaign to disqualify her was “designed to score cheap political goals. It is not about me… [I]t is about their political maneuvering.” The Knesset member added, “From an ideological point of view, it is very crucial for Israel to persecute me as a deterrent for young vocal Palestinians.”

Zoabi has had to fight to participate in every election over the past decade. Zoabi has even been physically assaulted when speaking on the Knesset floor. In 2003, Zoabi was also disqualified from running, but ultimately Israel’s high court overturned the decision. It is expected this pattern will repeat as Zoabi intends to appeal the election committee’s ruling. “A tradition seems to be evolving in which the committee is expected to ban people from the election on the assumption the court will reverse the decision,” said high court jurist Salim Joubran.

“Legally the case to disqualify her is even weaker than what it was in the past,” Balad’s chairman Jamal Zahalka said to +972 Magazine. “There is a basis to the possibility that the court won’t disqualify her, even under the strictest legal interpretations. The biggest fear is of the politicization of the issue — that the judges will believe that it is very popular to disqualify her and will be tempted to do so.”



Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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33 Responses

  1. Eva Smagacz on February 14, 2015, 9:27 am

    I admire Hanin Zoabi enormously.

    She is able to carry on regardless of wall of racism and hate encircling her constantly in her work as a politician. Lesser people would have folded long ago in face of so much hostility day in and day out.

    She must be a real horn in the side of Zionist Israelis: she is female, independent, feisty, self assured, articulate and non-religious.

    All the propaganda about Islam being “male-female apartheid” falls apart when confronted with her image.

    Real role model for women everywhere.

    • seafoid on February 14, 2015, 10:49 am

      Hugely impressive intellect and the bot repeaters have no answer to her.

    • annie on February 14, 2015, 10:56 am

      i admire her enormously too eva.

      defner has the full quote at his blog but as an editor, and this was spoken and not written, i would change 2 punctuation marks:

      Is it strange that people living under occupation and living impossible lives, in a situation where Israel kidnaps new prisoners every day, is it strange that they act this way? They are not terrorists. Even if I do not agree with them, they are people who do not see any way open to change their reality, and they are compelled to use means like these until Israel wakes up and sees the suffering, feels the suffering of the other.

      i would change to:

      Is it strange that people living under occupation and living impossible lives, in a situation where Israel kidnaps new prisoners every day, is it strange that they act this way? They are not terrorists, even if I do not agree with them. They are people who do not see any way open to change their reality, and they are compelled to use means like these until Israel wakes up and sees the suffering, feels the suffering of the other.

    • Shingo on February 14, 2015, 6:16 pm

      I agree Eva.

      And at the risk of sounding sexist, she’s also attentive and photogenic, which makes her even harder to demonize.

    • JWalters on February 14, 2015, 8:57 pm

      Israel is guided by myths, and by laws only when convenient for the myths. But the myths are crumbling, bringing justice closer.

  2. Jackdaw on February 14, 2015, 10:26 am

    Allison. I can’t believe you sit there and write this stuff. It must have taken hours.

    • just on February 14, 2015, 10:56 am

      Jackdaw~ it would have taken YOU hours, but not someone with a brain.

      Peck, peck, peck—squawk!

      • annie on February 14, 2015, 11:06 am

        just, it would definitely take me hours to write this article. allison is a professional so i don’t know how long it took her to research and write this i just know it would take me a relatively long time. something that takes a minute to read often takes a long time to write. phil and adam are really fast, but not me.

        anyway, i don’t know what jack’s problem is. it’s worth it, taking a few hours to report the news is nothing compared to what Hanin Zoabi has gone through for months over this mangling of her words for political incitement. nothing! and for many people it will be the first time they have ever heard of this incident. and for some, undoubtedly, it will be the first time they have ever heard of the magnificent Hanin Zoabi. definitely worth it.

        thanks allison!

      • Mooser on February 14, 2015, 11:25 am

        “anyway, i don’t know what jack’s problem is.”

        Jackdaw’s problem? Oh that’s easy. He’s not “comfortable” and he just can’t seem to “settle” at Mondoweiss.

      • just on February 14, 2015, 12:24 pm

        Allison is, of course, hugely talented. I meant no disrespect to her, but Jackdaw’s comment was not meant to be thoughtful/gracious, and I was responding to his inanity.

        Many thanks for this masterful article about the great Hanin Zoabi and the disgraceful, misogynistic, and racist efforts on the part of Knesset members to silence/sideline her once again, simply because she speaks the truth, and she speaks for millions. They’ve twisted and mistranslated her words, but it won’t work thanks to the diligence of people like Allison.

        I really like the title~ “a mistranslation gone too far”… when has Israel ever not ‘gone too far’??? They stand exposed.

        As it is with all who are indigenous to Palestine, Hanin Zoabi is part of the land, earth, sea and sky… an awesome force in her own right.

        When 1S1P1V happens, Hanin Zoabi could very well be its leader.

      • annie on February 14, 2015, 12:56 pm

        oh i know you didn’t mean any disrespect. i just thought i’d mention that for a person like myself (and many writers i would imagine), it really does often take hours to write one article! phil and adam, i’ve seen them whip them up in mind blowing speed. sometimes it’s like that for me but more often not. and sometimes, like with the recent horrific murders in chapel hill, it’s so emotional i can’t make words for it at all.

      • just on February 14, 2015, 1:29 pm

        You do such important work here, Annie. Your contribution to my life and understanding of this wrenching injustice called I/P is something that I thank my lucky stars to have.

        Happy Palestine Day! Dance with abandon this evening, in solidarity with good humans!

      • annie on February 16, 2015, 5:17 am

        you are so sweet just. thanks for everything.

    • CigarGod on February 15, 2015, 11:47 am

      Got nothing but bark, eh Jackdog?

  3. eljay on February 14, 2015, 11:00 am

    Both Zoabi and Marzel were labeled as “extremists, from opposite ends of the political spectrum,” by the the Zionist Camp.

    The spectrum runs:
    – from justice, accountability and equality,
    – to oppression, colonialism, expansionism and religion-based supremacism.

    Zoabi is right to place herself on the former end of that spectrum. And it says a lot – actually, it says everything – about Zio-supremacists that they place themselves anywhere and everywhere on the spectrum except for that end.

  4. a blah chick on February 14, 2015, 11:26 am

    Marzel’s views are far more mainstream than Zoabi’s, and that’s the problem.

    Yossi Israeli cannot tolerate mouthy Arabs or women.

  5. concernedhuman on February 14, 2015, 1:23 pm

    Silencing pro-Palestinians is some thing not new to the zionist camp. But seems they struggled to silence her because she kept fighting back.
    They seem to do it with much ease in America, any politician that expresses pro palestinian thoughts will be shamed and will not get any votes nor money.

  6. piotr on February 14, 2015, 2:56 pm

    to a blah chick: I do not think that Israeli’s are particularly sexist, a male Arab would have similar problem. Zoabi’s first crime was to attempt to kill and kidnap, and in the failed aftermath, to badmouth valiant IDF soldiers who defended their country against a terrorist horde aboard of Mavi Marmara. At least, this is how I understood comments in Israeli online publications. I would need to research why there was an attempt to ban her in 2003: was to for the entire Balad?

    For the high court it is a hard case. On one hand, the legal case to ban her may be thin, something I recall being described in a similar context in USA as “arid legalism”. On the other hand, her presence in the chamber of the Knesset endangers Israel — many members can succumb to hypertension, or if sufficiently medicated, to narcolepsy. In a country with a parliamentary system that can be a profound problem.

    Pragmatic justices may well conclude that narcoleptisy among MKs can actually benefit the state. But I expect stage II: the right wing will challenge the center and near-left to join them and purge the traitor judges who sided with the terrorist (I guess that by that time Zoabi will be promoted to “the terrorist” or even “THE TERRORIST”). Are you, or you are not, a crypto-pro-Zoabi traitor? I would expect that BY, YB, part of the Likud will spearhead the initiative. and I can only speculate where it will end: will meds be provided promptly and in sufficient doses?

    • piotr on February 14, 2015, 2:58 pm

      Something is wrong with “edit”, sorry for the typos.

  7. justicewillprevail on February 14, 2015, 3:01 pm

    Hanin Zoabi is a towering example of courage and integrity, and should be internationally recognised as a standard bearer for the rights of the dispossessed and downtrodden, in the same way that others have been lauded for standing up for human right at great cost to themselves. She has had to bear the most repugnant abuse and vilification, which she has withstood with great integrity and calmness, despite the personal risk to herself and her family. The more her oppressors and abusers attack her, the more they demean themselves and reveal the racist, political system which they have been methodically building since 1948. Hanin Zoabi’s family have lived in Palestine/Israel for centuries, generations longer than the pipsqueak colonisers who claim to own the ground she walks on, and who deny her the rights she and her fellow countrymen are entitled to. That alone gives her a moral authority which they cannot stand, and one which they obviously want to bury in their pathetic insinuations, slander and personal attacks. They are diminished and exposed by the simple dignity of Hanin, just by her existence which is a simple and eloquent rebuttal to all of their delusional attempts to rewrite history and deny the reality of their historic theft and occupation. No wonder they hate her, and no wonder she is respected so widely. More power to her.

  8. seafoid on February 14, 2015, 3:11 pm

    Why does Mondo refer to Zoabi as Arab (the bot formulation, since there is no such thing as palestine) rathervthan palestinian which is how she describes herself?

    • bintbiba on February 14, 2015, 3:29 pm

      Thank you, seafoid….

      Palestinians. They have their own characteristics, dialect , accent , dress .

      They have a lot in common with the rest of the Arab world… the written language, some of the food ,some of the history , literature . They ( we ) have a distinctive culture of our own.

      • Susan A on February 15, 2015, 9:23 am

        @seafoid @bintbiba Yes, a very good question. Where does this leave a friend of mine who once told me he was ‘an Arab Jew’? Everywhere we can see Zionists denigrating ‘Arabs’. Do they have no sense of history whatever?

      • seafoid on February 15, 2015, 3:06 pm

        Calling Palestinians Arabs is the step before saying “they have 22 other countries to go to” and Mondo should not follow the zionist example.
        Zoabi is a Palestinian.

    • just on February 14, 2015, 3:33 pm

      A good question, seafoid.


      “Members of the Joint List called for Jewish-Arab unity at campaign launch even in Nazareth on Saturday.

      The Joint List ticket combines Hadash and the Arab parties in the current Knesset: Balad and the United Arab List-Ta’al.

      “Jews and Arabs must stand together against the ugly wave of hatred and racism,” MK Dov Khenin of the Hadash faction said at the event.

      “Anyone who has eyes to see and ears to hear and a heart to feel what happened here last summer should stand by us,” Khenin said. “Every person with a conscience in this country should ask himself at this time: Does he stand with the forces of war and hatred and death, or with the forces of justice and equality and peace and life. There will be no peace here and no life here until we free ourselves of the occupation, because a nation that subjugates another nation cannot be free. Peace will only come with a solution of independence and justice for both nations in this land.”

      Khenin also said the slate was “delivering a message of equality” for all Israeli citizens.

      Meanwhile, Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) attacked Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s recent statements about the party. “Lieberman said that the aim of the list is to destroy Israel and we say to him: We are not involved in that because you are doing it very well. We are involved in building the individual, and destroying the occupation and racism.”

    • piotr on February 14, 2015, 6:57 pm

      “Arab” is not a political term like “Canadian”, but ethno-linguistic, like “Ango-Saxons” or “Anglophone”. If there was a term with wider circulation, say, “Anglian”, a person like Obama could at different occasion say “As an American, I blah blah” or “As an Anglian, I find it particularly blah blah”.

      • seafoid on February 15, 2015, 3:08 pm

        In israel it is a political term, piotr. Israel does not recognise the Palestinian identity.

        Israel might as rationally deny the existence of night.

      • piotr on February 17, 2015, 11:10 am

        I know that it is a Shiboleth of right wing Zionists to never, ever say “Palestinian”. Still, it is manifestly OK to use Palestinian and Arab interchangeably when the context is clear. The subtle point is that the usage “Palestinian” has some “in-your-face” aspect, like “We are here, we are queer, deal with it”, so in the contact of “unity” the term “Arab” is preferred, but with clear understanding, and statements on the record, that the “Arabs” in question are Palestinian.

        Zoabi herself (and Balad) is given to rather subtle distinctions, as Palestinian nationalist in the framework of individual human rights and not simply “Palestinian nationalist”.

  9. Kay24 on February 14, 2015, 9:08 pm

    Apartheid alive and well in the land of transplants. Who need more proof?

  10. Nevada Ned on February 16, 2015, 7:05 am

    The Palestinian struggle against racism has been compared with the African-American struggle in the US. Along these lines, the action of the Knesset is unseating Hanin Zoabi has a parallel in the US.

    In the 1960’s, Julian Bond became the first African-American to be elected to the Georgia Legislature since Reconstruction . The Georgia Legislature refused to allow Julian Bond to take his seat. If the Georgia Legislature had used the Israeli vocabulary, they would have bellowed that Bond “refused to recognize Georgia’s right to exist as a white state.”

    Zombi’s real crime is being a lonely voice for the oppressed Palestinians. The accusation of “terrorism” is a phony issue. After all, the late terrorist Menachem Begin is now Israel’s most honored senior statesman, with all sorts of things named after him.

  11. jon s on February 18, 2015, 4:57 pm

    Update: The High Court of Justice today overturned the disqualification of MK Zouabi,( and of Barukh Marzel), so she probably will be reelected .

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