This week’s 20 Questions hosts Haneen Zoabi, a member of Knesset representing the Balad party. Haneen is the first woman to be elected to Knesset from an Arab party. 

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MK Zoabi asserts that it is entirely unfair for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to demand Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, and states that she would never do so herself. Furthermore, Zoabi continues, no one who truly believes in democracy would agree to recognize Israel as a Jewish state because a Jewish democracy is a contradiction.



Zoabi identifies herself as a Palestinian first and an Israeli citizen second. She believes that one of the thornier issues associated with declaring Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people is the fact that my declaring Jewish, the state automatically discriminates anyone who is not a part of that group. She describes her situation and the situation of minorities in Israel thus: as non-Jews in their own homeland which doesn’t represent them or give them national and equal rights.

Zoabi termed Netanyahu’s definition of Israel as a Jewish state with equal rights for all its minorities as “nonsense.” Claiming that “calling it the Jewish homeland is not right,” Zoabi avers that Palestinians are the indigenous people in this land and that as such they are the people that deserve recognition.  She decries the education of Israeli schools which teaches children that the land was empty in 1948 before the Jews came from Europe.

When asked her opinion on the Hamas-Fatah unity, Zoabi emphasized the importance of joining the two Palestinian factions. Would the secular-religious divide between them prevent cooperation? Zoabi believes that if there is a Palestinian state, no doubt the differences between them that concern internal and social issues will demolish any chances at unity. But it is irrelevant, because their current goal of struggling against occupation and defeating oppression is the same for both Fatah and Hamas.

On the topic of the flotilla, Zoabi made some surprising proclamations; Relating to the people living in Gaza, Zoabi says, “the Palestinians don’t need food they need freedom.”

“The message [of the Freedom flotilla] is not related to the siege as much as it is related to Israeli violent action against the first flotilla.”

Zaobi further added, “the message is to tell Israel we are not afraid of your violence.” Zoabi says that Israel killed innocents last year on the Mavi Marmara as a method of deterrence to stop another flotilla from coming. The next flotilla is to signal to Israel that violent deterrence doesn’t work.

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