Portrait of a Palestinian parliamentarian
Sir, – It is unusual for an embassy to comment on political views expressed by a parliamentarian of its state, regardless of their location on the political spectrum. As an Arab member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, Haneen Zoabi has the same freedom as other MKs to articulate her views and advocate the interests of her constituents. However, when she steps outside the democratic consensus to consort with self-declared and violent enemies of the state in whose parliament she sits (as with the armed IHH activists on the Mavi Marmara who tried to disrupt the legal and necessary arms blockade on Gaza in 2010) her views become a legitimate object of criticism.
There is no reason why a Jewish state, instituted as a national homeland for one of the world’s oldest coherent nationalities, should be, as Ms Zoabi claims (Home News, August 7th), any more “racist” than a French state for those of French nationality or an Irish state for those of Irish nationality. Neither is such a state necessarily incompatible with full civil rights for its resident national, ethnic and religious minorities. The recent welcome reciprocal visits between Irish and Israeli parliamentarians have underscored a shared ethos of hard-won nationhood combined with full respect for minorities.
The fact is that Ms Zoabi is a living refutation of her own allegations of denial of equal rights to Arab Israelis. One of her uncles was a supreme court judge, a second uncle served as deputy minister of health and mayor of Nazareth while another relative was also mayor of Nazareth. Arab citizens serve proudly at all levels of Israeli society: an Arab has been acting president, an Arab supreme court judge has helped to convict a former Jewish president on rape charges. And more Arabs vote for the Labour, Likud or Kadima parties than for Ms Zoabi’s small party.
The data on higher education participation given in your report may mislead. In 2011, 63 per cent of Christian Arab students matriculated to university, compared with 49 per cent of Jewish and 33 per cent of Muslim Arab students. Christian Arab students are three times more likely than students generally to study medicine and paramedical disciplines. While much remains to be done to encourage the entry of more Muslim Arab women into the workforce, participation rates for this sector are broadly in line with those in neighbouring Muslim Arab states. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Thanks to Patsy McGarry for his informative portrait of Haneen Zoabi, the Palestinian parliamentarian in Israel (Home News, August 7th). She gave an utterly compelling talk to a packed ballroom in Dublin on Tuesday night of what life is like for over a million non-Jews within Israel, and the high level of discrimination they face from state and society.
One sentence of hers summed up how Palestinians in Israel are treated by the Jewish state: “I am not a second class citizen; I am an enemy, a strategic threat.” This should give pause for thought for those who believe that an Israel that defines itself as a Jewish state can ever be a truly democratic state, a state for all its citizens. – Yours, etc,