Haneen Zoabi Biography
Haneen Zoabi is a controversial Arab lawmaker in the Israeli parliament. Born in the occupied West Bank, she was raised by a devout family of Palestinians who had just witnessed an important war over their territory between two countries. Growing up under Israel's jurisdiction, she took advantage of the rare position of being an ethnic Arab while holding Israeli citizenship to attend and graduate from several prestigious Israeli universities. After working as a teacher, she decided to found her own non-government organization to use media to promote intercultural dialogue and understanding. Aspiring to do more, she then entered the world of politics and became one of the few ethnic Arabs to be elected as a member of the Israeli parliament. Just weeks after gaining her seat, Zoabi gained nationwide attention when she participated in a controversial flotilla operation. Several lawmakers then began to oppose her membership in the parliament, and she had to face numerous legal challenges to retain her seat. She continued to defend her Arab constituency and make enemies amongst other lawmakers in her country. After extensive court hearings and rulings, Haneen Zoabi is currently still a member of parliament but is facing many obstacles in the upcoming elections.
- Haneen Zoabi was born on May 23, 1969 in Nazareth, Israel. Her family is ethnic Arab and practicing members of the Muslim faith.
- Zoabi studied psychology and philosophy at the ‘University of Haifa’. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, in 1987.
- She also earned a ‘Masters of Arts in Communications’ from the ‘Hebrew University of Jerusalem’ in 1991.
- Zoabi started her career teaching mathematics and was then appointed as a school inspector for the Ministry of Education.
- She embarked on her political career with the ‘Balad Party’ when she became a member in 2001. Balad is one of the few Arab-centric political parties competing in Israeli elections.
- In 2003, she helped establish ‘I'lam’, a non-government organization that calls itself the ‘Media Center for Arab Palestinians in Israel’. She was soon promoted to general director of the organization.
- She ran for parliament, in 2006. Unfortunately, her Balad party did not receive enough votes to be awarded any seats in the parliament
- In 2009, Zoabi resigned as the general director of I'lam. In the same year, she successfully ran for parliament. Her election win was symbolic as she became the first female member of Arab descent in the history of Israeli Parliament.
- After her election, she received national attention when she described the prime minister and several other key leaders in Israel as ‘a bunch of fascists’.
- In March 2009, she attracted more national attention after telling the press that she was not concerned that neighboring Iran would produce nuclear weapons. Israel's official position on the matter is completely opposed to Zoabi's.
- On May 31, 2010, she participated in the 'Gaza flotilla'. When a ship approached Israeli waters, commandos boarded the ship and arrested her.
- The day after her release, she spoke to the press and called the raid a "pirate military operation". She was not wounded in the attack but nine fellow passengers were killed and over 10 people injured.
- In 2010, while she was addressing the parliament, Anastasia Michaeli, a fellow member of parliament, charged the podium and prevented her from speaking. Later, Zoabi was assigned security guards to protect her.
- Shortly afterwards, the Interior Minister requested that the Attorney General strip her parliamentary immunity. He wanted Haneen to be stripped of her Israeli citizenship, saying she had committed treason against the country.
- Although the responsible parliamentary committee voted 7-1 to strip Zoabi of her parliamentary immunity, the Speaker of the Parliament, Reuven Rivlin, bypassed the vote and submitted the issue to the entire parliament.
- On July 13, 2010, the entire parliament voted 34-16 to strip Haneen of some of her parliamentary immunity.
- In 2011, the Attorney General closed the investigation into her participation in the ‘Gaza flotilla’.
- In August 2012, Israel's Foreign Ministry had to change their rules after a number of official personnel had used social media to release damaging and inflammatory statements against Zoabi.
- In December 2012, the Central Elections Committee as well as a select panel of judges from the Supreme Court met to decide whether or not to disqualify Zoabi, as well as her Balad Party, from the upcoming 2013 elections. In a 19-9 vote, the committee decided to disqualify her.
- Shortly afterwards, the case was taken to the Israeli Supreme Court. In a unanimous vote, the Supreme Court voted to overturn to ban.
- In February 2013, a member of parliament submitted legislation entitled the 'Zoabi Law', designed specifically to block the Supreme Court from interfering with decisions made by the Central Elections Committee. After an intense debate, the legislation did not garner enough votes to become law.
- On July 10, 2014, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped by Palestinians. She made national headlines when she stated that the kidnappers were not terrorists.
- On July 25, 2014, the Attorney General opened a new investigation into Zoabi, exploring charges of incitement and 'public disgrace'. Four days later, she was suspended from the parliament for a period of six months. Her appeal to the Supreme Court to overturn the suspension was rejected.
- In February 2015, the High Court of Justice overturned the decision to disqualify Zoabi from being eligible to run for office in the March 2015 elections.
- Zoabi continues to face a lot of flak from the Jewish community as she represents the Arab minority in Israel in the national parliament.
- Although close to 2 million ethnic Arabs hold Israeli citizenship, they are represented in the parliament by just 3 out of a total of 120 seats. Zoabi has played the role of Arab crusader ever since she joined politics in the country and has campaigned against polygamy, a custom that some citizens of Israel still practice.
- Although some Palestinians have fought for their own state, Haneen and her ‘Balad Party’ officially support a one-state solution for Israel. She has used her education in media communications to start an NGO ‘I’lam’ with the aim to promote the rights of minority Arabs in Israel.
- Haneen Zoabi has never been married and has no children. She currently lives with her parents.
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