In an interview for the website Elaph.com, Israeli Arab Knesset Member Hanin Zou'bi of the Balad party said that she sees herself as a representative not of Israel but rather of the struggle of the Palestinian people, and as such does not recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Zou'bi attacked the Palestinian Authority, which she claimed no longer stands for Palestinian rights, and called on the PLO to effect a reform which would grant Israeli Arabs a voice in its leadership.
Following are excerpts from the interview:
"Israel is a Jewish State which Does Not Represent Me; It is Nothing but a Racist State"
Q: "As the first woman in a national Arab party, you came to the Knesset to represent the Arab citizens of the State of Israel. [But] you are like a storm that stirs up the world and will not quit. You might have been expected, for example, to take up the causes of the Arab woman and the Arab community in Israel. Instead you are at the center of an international storm [following your participation in the Gaza flotilla], and testifying against the very country of whose parliament you are a member."
Hanin Zou'bi: "...I represent the Balad party and its platform. Therefore, it is natural that I should address the Palestinian people's issues and the legitimacy of [their] struggle, since we [Israeli Arabs] are among the original inhabitants [of the land]. We [represent] not only the direct national concerns [of the Israeli Arabs], but also general Palestinian concerns. If this were not the case, my statements regarding my belonging to the Palestinian people would be meaningless... My participation in the Freedom Flotilla was intended to emphasize that my way is not just [a way of] spewing national slogans, but of translating them into political action, as is required of me...
"Our voicing of national [concerns] pains the Israeli public, because it fears that we pose a threat to the state. Therefore, when we demand national rights, we pose a threat to the state's Jewishness. This is true, but it is not my problem. The problem lies with the racist definition of the State [of Israel] as a Jewish state..."
Q: "...How can you expect the country in whose parliament you are a member to keep quiet about such activity [i.e. your participation in the Gaza flotilla]? In France, a member of the National Assembly would not dare to act thus against the French state..."
Hanin Zou'bi: "...My situation is different. I do not represent the State of Israel or speak in its name, but rather in the name of the [Palestinian] struggle, which does not in any way recognize Israel as a Jewish state. [I speak] in the name of a struggle that is performing a role precisely opposed to that of the Israeli Knesset, from the [Knesset's] standpoint...
"In my case, my identity does not conform to the identity of the state of which I am a citizen... This state does everything in its power to present my identity as opposed to its own identity and to its role of providing a safe haven for Jews wherever they may be. In my case, I say that Israel is a Jewish state which does not represent me; it is nothing but a racist state..."
The Palestinian Authority Has Deviated from the Palestinians' Historical Principles
Q: "...[What are your thoughts on] the positions and proposals which the Palestinian side has presented to Israel, including declarations attributed to [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas and [Palestinian Authority negotiations department head] Dr. [Saeb] Erekat, to the effect that Israel could choose how to define itself and the Palestinians are not interested in this definition?"
Hanin Zou'bi: "The issue of the state [of Israel's] Jewishness does not only represent an obstacle to the lives of those Palestinians within the '48 [territories, i.e., the Israeli Arabs]. It is an issue which constitutes a provocation to the Palestinian people as a whole... Obviously, it is we [Israeli Arabs] who [experience] the direct political impact [of this issue], but do the Palestinians in the [West] Bank, Gaza, and the diaspora accept that Haifa, Lod, and Jaffa should be part of a Jewish state? Are they the ones who [should] apologize for the Nakba instead of Israel? Do they agree to the definition of their homeland as a Zionist land? Do they agree that we should lose our political status as owners of the land – we, who stayed in [that homeland]? This has implications for the entire [Palestinian] cause, for the [entire Palestinian] people and its rights, not just for us. The other danger is that the refugees would not [be allowed] to return [to their homes] in the Jewish state, because the Jewish state has the 'right' to refuse to accept refugees. What logic is there in the Palestinian Authority claiming [to defend] the refugees' [right] of return, if it recognizes Israel as a Jewish state? Any Israeli provocation of a part of the Palestinian people is a provocation of all of the Palestinian people. Otherwise, what is the significance of our being one people?"
Q: "Doesn't the Palestinian Authority hold the same position?"
Hanin Zou'bi: "The Palestinian Authority [no longer] stands for Palestinian rights. It has deviated from [our] firm historical principles, [thereby] weakening its position in the negotiations. Even from the political perspective of negotiations, a position in favor of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state is a mistaken one, besides being at odds with national [values] and disdainful [of Palestinian rights]. Another problem is that we [Israeli Arabs] have never been, and still are not, part of the Palestinian people's general source of authority [i.e., its ruling movement, the PLO]. The time has come for this [issue] to be part of the [Palestinians'] firm principles... The time has come to rebuild the PLO so that it includes us, [considering that it is] the source of authority in everything having to do with the Arab-Israeli conflict. We are an integral part of the Palestinian people, and as such, an integral part of the general source of national authority. The PLO today does not speak in the name of the Palestinian people, nor does it have the legitimacy to do so."
Q: "How do you see the future of relations between the Israeli Arabs [on the one hand] and Israel and its state institutions [on the other], considering the escalation in the destruction of homes by the [Israeli] authorities and the tightening of the noose around the necks of the Palestinians in Israel?"
Hanin Zou'bi: "If Israel continues these policies, we will shift in the direction of confronting the state. The Palestinians within [Israel] will not allow the current situation to continue as it is..."
This Homeland Is Ours
In another interview for the United Arab Emirates daily Al-Imarat Al-Yawm, Zou'bi, when asked her opinion on the role of Arab Knesset members, said that she and the other members of her party saw themselves as Palestinians who were owners of their homeland:
"...Our platform is based on the demands for national and civil equality, for recognition as owners of this homeland, and for the Jewish state to become a state for all of its citizens. This is the compass that directs our political action... Since we define ourselves first and foremost as Palestinians who are owners of the homeland, we view it as part of our platform to defend the right of our people to put an end to the occupation. [This] is not limited to the '48 territories, but applies to the historical borders of our people. Therefore, our platform includes [supporting] the return of the Palestinian refugees, defeating the occupation, dismantling the settlements, and [securing] East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state. We [Israeli Arabs] do not enter the Knesset merely as citizens, but as [people] fully aware of our history and of all facets of our conflict with Israel..."