Uproar over appointment of Meretz MK who ‘doesn’t sing Hatikva’ as Shanghai consul

Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi said the appointment - the highest ever for an Arab woman in Israel - is very meaningful to Arab society.

Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi (photo credit: ELAD MALKA)
Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi
(photo credit: ELAD MALKA)

Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi said she is alienated by Israel’s national anthem, the day after Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced her appointment as Israel’s consul-general to Shanghai, sparking an uproar in the coalition and opposition.

“It is unthinkable that someone with non-Zionist positions as hers are will be the face of Israel in an important country,” Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel said in a meeting on Tuesday, soon after Zoabi’s appointment was announced, Channel 12 reported.

The next morning, Zoabi was asked in an interview on KAN News if she recognizes Israel as the Jewish state.

“Israel is a democratic country and I want it to be more democratic,” Zoabi responded. “I mostly want it to be more equal. I entered the Knesset mostly in order to promote equality.

Zoabi pointed out that, like all lawmakers, she pledged loyalty to the state upon becoming an MK.

An Israeli flag [Ilustrative] (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)An Israeli flag [Ilustrative] (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

When asked if she would sing ‘Hatikvah,’ she said that she does not know the anthem by heart.

“The phrase ‘Jewish soul’” – which appears in the anthem – “excludes me,” Zoabi said.

Lapid appointed Zoabi as consul in a time of turmoil within the coalition, and about a month after she cast the decisive vote against legislation to encourage haredim (ultra-Orthodox) to enlist in the IDF, to protest the government decided to reinstate the ban on Palestinians married to Israelis obtaining citizenship.

Zoabi, however, said she is “certain that there is no connection.

“I am sure that Lapid appointed me because of my diplomatic and personal abilities,” she said.

Zoabi added that the appointment – the highest ever for an Arab woman in Israel – is very meaningful to Arab society.

MK Boaz Toporovsky, of Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party, defended the choice, saying that “especially in a world in which people are trying to slander Israel as a racist, apartheid state, appointing an Arab woman to such a senior position can show the truth.”

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu demanded that the government cancel Zoabi’s “shameful” appointment immediately.

Netanyahu accused Lapid and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of “selling out Zionism in favor of their political survival.”

“It cannot be that the person who will represent Israel in one of the most important powers in the world will be someone who doesn’t recognize Israel as a Jewish state and opposes our national anthem,” Netanyahu said.

Likud MK Ofir Akunis called Zoabi’s appointment “political corruption” and “the death rattle of a government coming to an end.”

MK Shlomo Karhi, also of Likud, said that Hendel was a hypocrite for opposing Zoabi’s appointment.

“You formed a government with them and sold the country to terror supporters, and now it bothered you that she’s going to be a consul?” Karhi tweeted. “She easily could have been a senior minister in your government. I have news for you, Yoaz, there are already anti-Zionist ministers in your government.”