The news article portion of “Israeli parliament seeks to oust contentious Arab lawmaker; Haneen Zoabi’s role in the Knesset was restricted after she made remarks seen as supporting the kidnappers of three Jewish teenagers” (Washington Post, Dec. 14, 2014) was informative. But the feature story portion amounted to an unrebutted Op-Ed by an anti-Israel rabble-rouser.
The article’s bipolar dysfunction resulted in lack of balance and implicit support for the false “Palestinian narrative” underlying Zoabi’s claims.
William Booth, The Post’s Jerusalem bureau chief, provided context for Zoabi’s incitement before last summer’s Israel-Hamas war and its rejection by Jewish politicians (more below). But the article dropped controversy over Zoabi into arguments surrounding draft legislation to formally declare Israel a “Jewish state” (beyond that designation in the country’s Declaration of Independence). As a result, the Arab Knesset member’s propaganda went unchallenged.
The Post related that after three Israeli teens were kidnapped last summer, but before they were found murdered, Zoabi defending kidnapping by “people living under occupation and living impossible lives …” She claimed the kidnappers—who turned out to be Hamas members—were not terrorists. “They are compelled to use these means, until Israel behaves a little … until they look at the suffering and feel the suffering of others.”
Palestinian leadership could have ended “the occupation” by accepting two-state solutions and peace with Israel when offered in 2000, 2001 or 2008, but they refused. The lives of Palestinian Arabs are so impossible that, according to the United Nations, their livings standards, at least until well into the second intifada, exceeded those of Algerians, Egyptians, Moroccans, Syrians and Yemeni. “Occupation” and “impossible lives” are of the Palestinian Arabs’ own making, but The Post lets Zoabi slide.
Zoabi’s rabble-rousing, including urging a “popular uprising” by West Bank Arabs, led the Knesset Ethics Committee suspended her for six months.” A Jewish Knesset member is quoted saying continues to cross, the line separating civic debate from incitement and “becoming a role model for young [Israeli] Arabs” in the process.
The Post refers to proposed legislation to permit expulsion of members supporting any group or country at war with Israel as “the Zoabi bill.” At this point, the newspaper losses focus.
Israel indulges anti-Israel Knesset members
Imagine a member of Congress after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 insisting al-Qaeda had no choice but to destroy New York’s World Trade Center and attack the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. since America and its citizens “misbehaved” in the Middle East. Imagine a member of the Congressional Black Caucus insisting that violence by African Americans against white Americans was justified until whites “behaved.”
Yet Israel’s “racist” democracy, in Zoabi’s words, has indulged her and other Arab Knesset members for years while they acted in ways no Arab parliamentarian, minority or majority member, ever would be permitted to in an Arab state.
A dozen Israeli Arabs serve in the current Knesset (10 percent of the 120 total members).
To put Zoabi’s agitation in perspective, pretend a democratic parliament existed in any Arab country with minorities—Christians, Kurds, Berbers, Jews and others—not only comprising 10 percent of the total but also loudly denying that country’s national foundation and slandering it as non-democratic. It cannot be done. But The Post lets Zoabi “have her cake and eat it too” without much examination.
It describes her as “a scion of a very old Palestinian family from the hills of Galilee” and “a Palestinian and an Arab Israeli citizen.” This is a recurrent oxymoron.
Israeli Arabs are Israeli citizens just as Israeli Jews are Israeli citizens, regardless of their religious or ethnic backgrounds. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, born in Cuba, is not a Cuban U.S. senator. He’s an American senator. Haneen Zoabi is an Israeli parliamentarian. If a West Bank and Gaza Strip “Palestine” ever is established and she moves there and becomes a citizen, then she’ll be a Palestinian Arab. Until then, she’s an Israeli Arab, Sunni Muslim, citizen of Israel and member of the Israeli parliament.
If she’s a descendant of a very old family from the hills of Galilee, that family hasn’t considered itself “Palestinian” very long. Most Israeli Arabs didn’t begin hedging their bets and describing themselves as Palestinian Israelis until the first or second intifada. Many Israeli Jews rejected their split personality claim that “my people are fighting my country.”
In any case, Daniel Pipes has demonstrated, as CAMERA has noted before, that 1920 was the year the Arabs discovered Palestine. They did so in opposition to Jewish nationalism in eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel), British Mandatory Palestine. Previously, they had been Arabs, subjects of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire, or south Syrians.
“Palestinian” was an adjective often applied during British administration—1917 to 1948—to Zionist colonizers. Its largely post-1948 if not post-1967 usage to denote a supposedly pre-existing Arab nationality paralleled the post-World War I imposition of Yugoslavia on disparate Balkan lands and a “Yugoslav” identity on their Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian, Bosnian and other peoples.
The ‘indigenous’ trump card
So what kind of Israeli Arab is Zoabi? One who seeks to delegitimize the Jewish state of Israel.
“I am the original indigenous person,” The Post quotes her as asserting. “I didn’t immigrate to Israel. I am from this land.”
Wrong again. The ancestors of many of today’s West Bank, Israeli and Gaza Strip Arabs began settling west of the Jordan River after 1600. Many did not arrive until the 1800s, with Muhammad Ali’s army from Egypt, and in the early 1900s, drawn by economic opportunities spurred by renewed Jewish settlement (for example, “The Smoking Gun: Arab Immigration into Palestine, 1922 – 1931,” by Prof. Fred M. Gottheil, University of Illinois, Middle East Quarterly, Winter, 2003).
Granting The Post’s description of Zoabi’s family as in the hills of Galilee for generations, she is “an original indigenous person” in much the same way someone whose family arrived in pre-Revolutionary America is “an original indigenous person.” The latter are native Americans. But they’re not Native American Indians.
When it comes to extant indigenous trump cards, the ancestors of today’s Israeli Jews were expelled by the Babylonians 2,600 years ago, and returned. They were expelled by the Romans 2,000 years ago, and have been returning in numbers for more than 13
0 years. “The Palestinian narrative” of a dispossessed people struggling for its rights “by any means necessary” against Zionist colonizers necessitates Zoabi’s chutzpah. But The Post easily could and should have found an authoritative source to negate her historical revisionism without resorting to texts such as The Claim of Dispossession: Jewish Land-Settlement and The Arabs, 1878-1948, by Arieh Avneri (Israel: Yad Tabenkin, 1982).
Likewise, the paper should have provided readers with a source exposing Zoabi’s anti-Israel advocacy. Her recommendation that West Bank Arabs rebel and besiege Israel instead of negotiating goes unchallenged. Could The Post not find anyone to point out the obvious:
But for Israel’s continued military-security presence in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and sometimes cooperation from the Palestinian Authority, Hamas likely would be successful in its next plot to overthrow PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah movement as it did in the Gaza Strip? Then elements of both could launch new terrorists attacks against Israelis as they did in the second intifada. But for U.S. and diffident European opposition, Abbas would not even go through occasional motions of negotiating with Israel. He likely would concentrate fully on gaining U.N. support for a “land-without-negotiations” imposition on Israel.
The Post writes that Zoabi’s critics “consider her a gadfly, or much worse.” Much worse, indeed, but the paper fails to report how.