Firebrand Israeli-Arab Knesset Member Haneen Zoabi Announces Retirement From Politics
Firebrand Israeli-Arab Knesset member Haneen Zoabi, whose controversial career and ferocious rhetoric have been a flashpoint for controversy over the past decade, announced on Saturday that she will not run for another term in Israel’s legislature.
Zoabi, a member of the Palestinian nationalist party Balad, has become notorious for her ferocious criticism of Israel and a focal point for right-wing anger.
Announcing her decision not to run again, Zoabi said, “At this point in my life, after 10 eventful years, I feel that the time has come … to change the location, but not the path,” Israel’s Channel 2 reported.
Zoabi added that she intends to continue her activism “for a stronger Palestinian generation, a more stubborn struggle” and expressed her “belief that justice will be done.”
“This is the moment when it is customary to sum up an era, to make a self-examination, and to look to the future,” she said. “I will not evaluate myself. There were those who appreciated and even supported my actions and what I represented, and there were many more who hated and fought against me and my views.”
“I couldn’t control the sympathy and the hatred,” she continued, “and even less so the jealousy and the personal war that took place behind my back. I could control one thing: That I would not leave anyone indifferent to what I represent.”
She added that “the character assassination, the ongoing incitement, the attempt … to silence my voice, distort my opinions … and to distance me from the political arena, these were for me a grade of ‘very good.'”
Zoabi asserted that during her tenure, she represented, “The authentic voice of the victim, the truth, and the justice of my people’s struggle, according to my moral and intellectual integrity.”
Zoabi’s term in the Knesset was a stormy one that saw her become a hero to Palestinian nationalists and a villain to many Jewish and even some Arab Israelis.
In 2010, Zoabi took part in the notorious flotilla that attempted to run the blockade of Gaza, which ended when anti-Israel activists attacked IDF soldiers on the vessel Mavi Marmara. The soldiers used their weapons in self-defense and a number of the attackers were killed. Zoabi’s presence on board was widely criticized.
In 2014, Zoabi said that the terrorists who kidnapped and killed three Israeli teenagers, setting off Operation Cast Lead, were not terrorists, but “people that cannot see any way to change their reality, and they are forced to use these means until Israeli society wises up a bit and sees and feels the suffering of the other.” In response, then-foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said, “Not only are the kidnappers terrorists; Haneen Zoabi is a terrorist.”
Following the controversy, Zoabi was suspended from the Knesset for six months.
In 2015, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered a criminal investigation of Zoabi after she expressed support for a “popular intifada” against Israel. She was not indicted.