Israeli Arab MP who joined Gaza flotilla barred from re-election

JERUSALEM Wed Dec 19, 2012 1:11pm EST

Haneen Zoabi, an Arab member of the Israeli Knesset (the Israeli parliament), talks to reporters in Amman August 31, 2010. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

Haneen Zoabi, an Arab member of the Israeli Knesset (the Israeli parliament), talks to reporters in Amman August 31, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Muhammad Hamed

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel's electoral authority barred an Arab lawmaker from re-election on Wednesday, saying she had supported the nation's enemies by joining a protest ship that tried to break a naval blockade of Gaza.

Haneen Zoabi is expected to appeal to Israel's highest court which has overruled most previous efforts to disqualify Arab candidates as violations of free speech.

Israel's Central Elections Committee voted 19 to 9 with one abstention to block Zoabi's candidacy for the January 22 general election, a committee spokesman said. Separate motions to disqualify two Arab political parties were defeated.

Zoabi was on board the Mavi Marmara ship which was boarded by Israeli troops as it approached waters off Gaza in May 2010 as part of an international flotilla challenging Israel's blockade on the territory controlled by the Islamist group Hamas.

Nine Turkish citizens were killed, striking a huge blow to relations between the two countries.

The electoral committee disqualified Zoabi on two grounds: "negating Israel's existence as a Jewish state" and "support for an enemy state or terrorist organization engaged in armed conflict against Israel," spokesman Giora Pordes said.

Centrist and left-leaning Israeli lawmakers argued against disqualifying Zoabi.

"We cannot deny representation to people who disagree with us," said Nitzan Horowitz of the left-wing Meretz party.

Zoabi belongs to a tiny party in Israel's parliament that believes the country should not be defined as a Jewish state, which it sees as discriminatory toward the minority Arab population.

Most of the Arabs who make up about 20 percent of the Israeli population are related to or descended from Palestinians who fled or were driven away in a 1948 war over Israel's establishment.

Zoabi has insisted she had no role in any of the violence on board the Mavi Marmara and had tried to mediate between the sides.

(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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Comments (3)
Tiu wrote:
They never did understand democracy in apartheid (quasi) theocracy of Israel.

Dec 19, 2012 1:23pm EST  --  Report as abuse
If you define a nation based on a demographic such as religion, there will always be internal conflict and fighting with the various minorities that do not ‘fit’.

Dec 19, 2012 1:31pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Reuters1945 wrote:
You stated: “They never did understand democracy in apartheid (quasi) theocracy of Israel.”

I submit you are ignoring the larger picture that proves the very opposite of your contention.

As the article stated: “Separate motions to disqualify two Arab political parties were defeated.”

In addition, one third of the votes cast were in support of Haneen Zoabi’s right to run for office despite the fact that she held strong disagreements with the government.

Finally, in all likelihood, based on past precedents, the Israeli Supreme Court will rule in her favor that she cannot be barred from running for election.

While I may not agree with the concept that people should be barred from running for office based on their beliefs, in this case the global picture, observed in its totality, appears to reflect that the concept of a functioning democracy is alive and well in Israel and probably far more so than in most other countries that claim to be Democracies.

Were the situation reversed and Haneen Zoabi a member of the Jewish faith attempting to run for office in an Arab country, assuming you can find one that has ever allowed a single Jew to run for office, she would not have a snowball’s chance in Hell of finding that one third of her colleagues strongly and publically, supported her cause.

Some things to think about.

Dec 19, 2012 2:34pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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