Portrait of a Palestinian parliamentarian

 

Sir, – Deputy Israeli ambassador to Ireland Nurit Modai (August 10th) is correct that it is unusual to for an embassy to comment on the activities of an MP. Alas, it is all too usual when Israel is involved. Indeed, when it comes to Israel, the unusual routinely becomes the norm: laws that discriminate against the 18 per cent of its citizens who are Palestinian; state-instigated incitement against these citizens; prioritising one demographic group over another in the name of religion; all are “normal” in Israel.

Of course, she simply ignored the facts contained in the article about me, preferring to avoid such unwinnable arguments. She has nothing to say regarding the 30-plus laws which discriminate against Palestinian citizens in all areas: confiscation of land, land use, housing licenses, areas of residency, education laws which make it impossible to learn our Palestinian history and literature, publicly funded institutions being prohibited from commemorating Al Nakba (the Zionist expulsion of 85 per cent of the indigenous Palestinians from their homeland to forcibly create the Israeli state), etc.

There is even a classical apartheid law (the 2011 Admission Committees Law) which makes it de facto legal for 578 community villages to refuse Palestinian citizens residency on the basis of unsuitability for the “social fabric of the community”.

More generally, the average income of a Jewish family is three times more than for a Palestinian family in Israel, 50 per cent of us live under the poverty line, and we only make up 7.9 per cent of university students.

In Israel we Palestinians must deny our national identity; otherwise we will become “disloyal” citizens, “traitors”. We are “betraying” the state by struggling against racism and discrimination, because we must accept the fact that this is a “Jewish state”, created to privilege its Jewish citizens.

My uncle, whom deputy ambassador felt the need to drag into the debate, didn’t challenge any of this; thus, he became one of the “good Arabs” which Israel uses as propaganda cover. But it is worth pointing out that he is only one of two Palestinian citizens to have served on the Supreme Court since 1948, while more than 80 Jewish citizens have served in that time. My family’s participation in the political life of Israel proves nothing other than that we have used what limited democratic outlets are available to us to advance the cause of our people.

Indeed, Israel could afford a veneer of “democracy” towards previous generations of Palestinian citizens because, like my uncle, they never challenged their position in society. Generally speaking, a whole generation acted as such, out of fear and sense of weakness and defeat. These fears were well founded; until 1966 Palestinian citizens lived under military rule, similar to what our people in the Occupied Territories now experience. Things have changed, however, as the majority of my generation, (the fourth generation after Al Nakba), decided to reject the inherent racism and discrimination of the state towards them and organise to defeat these deficits of democracy.

The embassy also attempted to portray the “Jewish” nature of the state as akin to the “Irish” nature of Ireland. This false comparison, however, merely proves the points I make; they refuse to recognise that definition is entirely exclusivist in nature – it is based on a specific ethno-religious grouping, and thus excludes the entirety of the Palestinian and other non-Jewish citizens from the definition of the state, making the full realisation of their rights an impossibility.

The deputy ambassador has no answer for this, so she attempts to play the “religious card” by presenting false statistics regarding Christians – once again denying our Palestinian identity by dividing us into religions. We are not merely Christians or Muslims, nor are we “Israeli Arabs”, we are Palestinian citizens of Israel and we are struggling for our full national and equal rights, which means to have a democratic state for all its citizens. – Yours, etc,

HANEEN ZOABI, MK,

Knesset,

Kiryat Ben Gurion,

Jerusalem, Israel.