Success stories of Palestinian achievers from all over the world

Haneen Zoabi

Personal Info

  • Country of residence: Palestine
  • Gender: Female
  • Born in: 1969
  • Age: 46
  • Curriculum vitae :


Haneen Zoabi is a member of the Knesset representing the Balad party. She was elected in 2009, she is the first woman to be elected to the Knesset on an Arab party's list.

Born in Nazareth, Zoabi studied philosophy and psychology at the University of Haifa, gaining a Bachelors of Arts, before receiving a Masters of Arts in communications from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She was the first Arab citizen of Israel to graduate from a media studies course there, and established the first media classes in Arab schools. She also worked as a math teacher, and later served as a schools inspector for the Ministry of Education.

Zoabi joined Balad in 2001. In 2003, she co-founded the NGO I'lam - Media Center for Arab Palestinians in Israel. Zoabi was its general director until she resigned shortly before the 2009 election to focus on her political career.

Prior to the 2009 elections she won third place on the Balad list, and entered the Knesset after the party won three seats. She became the first female Arab MK to represent an Arab party (though preceded by Hussniya Jabara and Nadia Hilou on other lists). Zoabi ran for Knesset as a Balad candidate in 2006, but was too low on the party's electoral list to win a seat.

She is a relative of Seif el-Din el-Zoubi, a former mayor of Nazareth and member of the Knesset between 1949 and 1959, and again from 1965 until 1979, and Abd el-Aziz el-Zoubi, a Deputy Health Minister and the first Arab member of an Israeli government.

In 2008, she spoke at Wadham College. In 2009, she met with Code Pink, and Coalition of Women for Peace.

Zoabi (like Balad in general) rejects the idea of Israel as a Jewish state, which she describes as "inherently racist." She has argued that this is the only way to combat Avigdor Lieberman's demand that Israeli citizens take loyalty oaths: "Balad's concept, which rejects the 'Jewish state' idea, is the only idea that can remove [Avigdor] Lieberman from the circle of political and moral legitimacy...When you agree with the 'Jewish state' idea, you necessarily agree with the idea of loyalty to this state. Rejecting the 'Jewish state' concept will block the road for anyone who demands our loyalty to such a state."

Zoabi sees no difference between Lieberman and more mainstream Israeli politicians, saying that Lieberman, Tzipi Livni, and Benjamin Netanyahu are "all a bunch of fascists pure and simple."

At the 18th Knesset swearing-in ceremony on February 24, 2009, she left the Knesset plenum before the singing of Hatikva, Israel's national anthem. "'Hatikva' doesn't represent me", she later said. "I preferred to leave the room, because I don't appreciate hypocrisy." She has voiced support for Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons, saying “I need something to balance its [Israel’s] power.

Zoabi rejects any form of national service for Israel's Arab citizens. In an interview with Jonathan Cook, Zoubi said: "It is frustrating and exhausting having always to be on the defensive about why I identify as a Palestinian, why I am not a Zionist, why the Jewish state is not democratic and cannot represent me, why I am entitled to citizenship. It is a Sisyphean labor."

On 31 May 2010 Zoubi participated in the Gaza Flotilla. She spoke to Israeli media, from aboard ship. She was on board the MV Mavi Marmara, the ship where violence broke out between IDF commandos and the international activists, which left 9 activists dead and as many as 60 activists and 10 IDF soldiers injured.

Zoubi addressed the Knesset shortly after. She described the Israeli raid as a "pirate military operation". During her speech, she was repeatedly interrupted by Jewish lawmakers, who shouted "Go to Gaza, traitor"! During her address she said: "Israel spoke of a provocation, but there was no provocation. Why does the government of Israel oppose an investigation?" Later in a press conference she elaborated: "It was clear from the size of the force that boarded the ship that the purpose was not only to stop this sail[ing], but to cause the largest possible number of fatalities in order to stop such initiatives in the future."

Two security guards were assigned for her protection, after she received death threats. A Facebook group entitled "execute the MK Haneen Zoubi" was also started which had a goal of attaining 10,000 members. One man who offered a reward on Facebook of free groceries for killing Zoubi was arrested.

Following the raid, Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai requested that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein revoke Zoubi's parliamentary immunity and authorize Yishai to strip Zoubi of her Israeli citizenship. Yishai accused Zoubi of engaging in a "premeditated act of treason", and claimed she used her immunity to protect her from prosecution, even though she assisted activists and was "undoubtedly aware" of their preparations to attack IDF soldiers. Likud MK Yariv Levin also accused Zoubi of betraying the State of Israel, and called for her prosecution.

A Knesset committee voted 7–1 to recommend her parliamentary immunity be revoked, which attracted concern from the Inter-Parliamentary Union and was ultimately blocked by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who ignored the recommendation and declined to submit it to a vote of the full Knesset.

When the full Knesset met on 13 July 2010, it decided, in a 34-16 vote, to strip her of three parliamentary privileges as a penalty for her participation in the flotilla: the right to have a diplomatic passport, entitlement to financial assistance should she require legal help, and the right to visit countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations.


Achievements and Awards

- She established the first media classes in Arab schools.

- In 2003, she co-founded the NGO I'lam - Media Center for Arab Palestinians in Israel, and she is its general director.

- Zoabi joined Balad in 2001.

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