Reprinted from Gush Shalom
IT IS not easy to be an Arab in Israel.
It is not easy to be a woman in Arab society.
It is not easy to be an Arab in Israeli politics.
And even less easy to be an Arab woman in the Knesset.
Haneen Zuabi is all these together. Perhaps because of this she wears a perpetual smile -- the smile of somebody who has won, after all.
It can be very annoying, this smile. Annoying and provocative.
These days, Zuabi has achieved something no Arab woman in Israel ever dreamed of: the whole country is talking about her. Not for an hour, nor for a day, but for weeks on end.
The vast majority of Jewish Israelis hate her guts. Zuabi's smile is triumphant.
HANEEN BELONGS to a large Hamula (extended family) that dominates several villages near Nazareth. Two Zuabis were members of the Knesset in its early days -- one was a vassal of the (then) ruling Zionist Labor Party, the other a member of the left-wing Zionist Mapam party. It was he who coined the memorable phrase: "My country is at war with my people!"
Haneen Zuabi is a member of the Balad ("homeland") party, an Arab nationalist party founded by Azmi Bishara, an Israeli-Palestinian intellectual. Bishara was an admirer of Gamal Abd-al-Nasser and his pan-Arab vision. When the Shin-Bet was about to arrest him on some pretext or other, he fled the country, asserting that because of a severe kidney disease, prison would endanger his life.
He left behind a three-man Knesset faction, one of three Arab factions of similar size. All of them were a constant irritation to their Jewish colleagues, so they invented a remedy. A new law was enacted denying Knesset membership to any party that did not gain enough votes for a four-member faction. (A larger minimum could have endangered the Orthodox Jewish party.)
The logic was simple: the three small Arab factions hated each other's guts. One was Communist (with one Jewish member), one Islamist and one nationalist (Balad).
But lo and behold, under threat of annihilation even Arabs can unite. They formed a "Joint List" ("Joint," not "United") and together gained 13 seats -- three more than before. They are now the third largest faction in the Knesset, right after Likud and Labor, an eyesore to many of their colleagues.
THIS IS the background of the latest outrage.