Recently I attended a talk given by Ms Haneen Zoubi, a Palestinian from Israel and the first woman ever to be elected to
|Ms Haneen Zoubi|
the Israel Knesset as a member of an Arab party. I was particularly interested to hear what she had to say given that both Barack Obama and Pope Benedict XVI had both pushed for a two state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, while other advocates for justice in the region (such as Electronic Intifada), had suggested that Israeli settlement on the West Bank had made a two state solution impossible, part of the strategy of the Israeli Government. I wondered on what terms Palestinians within Israel itself would be prepared to accept a peace deal.
She is a member of the National Democratic Assembly in Israel which has as its key objective “a state for all its citizens” and a recognition of the Palestinian culture. As such, it is apposed to the concept of a Jewish State. In saying this she pointed out the difference between a Jewish State and a State for Jews, (to which she was not opposed). She did not see the abolition of the Jewish State as implying that the Jews would not have a homeland. She and her party were aiming for a secular state. She went on to say that there is no liberal democratic country in the world where the concept of a state that only gave full citizenship rights to members of one religious group or member of one race living within it was at all acceptable. Generally it was outlawed. All citizens were equal under the law. While she mentioned some of the twenty laws that were discriminatory against non-Jews her key point seemed to be that Israel was not a genuine liberal democracy in the same way as it is understood in the West. She referred to the allocation of land to non-Jews, marriage laws between Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Territories as compared to those applying to Jews, the spending of public monies on community facilities in Jewish as compared to non-Jewish communities and the educational opportunities provided for Arabs in comparison to Jewish communities. She pointed out the very high levels of unemployment among non-Jews compared with Jews.
She commented on the perceived “left wing” and “right wing” positions of the previous and present government on their willingness to negotiate peace saying that there is really no difference between the two. The “left” continues to talk about the “peace process” while the “right” is now making conditions relating to Iran. It’s the Peace Process that is being discussed not Peace. Both these are distractions. Even while the Oslo Accords were being discussed settlements were being established in the West Bank, supposedly as the West Bank was being considered as part of a Palestinian Homeland. There is no difference between “left” and “right” when it came to wanting peace.
On the question of a One State or Two State solution she said “yes”, a Two State solution; Israel existing, but Israel as “a state of all its citizens” alongside a Palestinian homeland.
While exploration of her background I learned that she is 39 years of age, had Muslim parents who sent her to Catholic schools in Nazareth, graduated in Media from Haifa University, taught maths in an Arab Catholic school, became the director of a media centre for Arab Palestinians in Israel and then entered the Knesset in 2009.