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'A Continuous Struggle': Israeli Knesset Member Haneen Zoabi on Land Day, Zionism and Citizenship in the 'Jewish State'

'There is no way to struggle for full equality and full citizenship without challenging the concept of a Jewish state,' Zoabi says.

Haneen Zoabi, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and Member of Knesset.
Photo Credit: Sumaya Hisham/Flickr


Editor's note: In commemoration with Land Day, Palestinians and their supporters plan on leading a "global march to Jerusalem" tomorrow, which will include protests and marches towards the Israeli border in a number of Arab countries. The march was called to protest Israeli policies restricting Palestinian access to Jerusalem and an "an end to the Apartheid, ethnic cleansing and Judaization policies affecting the people, land and sanctity of Jerusalem," as the march website puts it.

Since the 1980s, Palestinians have each year marked March 30th with protests to celebrate Land Day.  The day commemorates the first widespread struggle of Arab Israelis against land confiscation intended to create Jewish majorities in certain communities: the policy of Judaisation. The marches and general strikes began in Galilee; six unarmed Arab Israelis were killed.  After solidarity protests spread to the occupied West Bank, Gaza and the refugee camps in Lebanon, the day marked the first common struggle for a Palestinian national cause after the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, an event Palestinians call the “Nakba” (“Catastrophe”). This year on Land Day there will be worldwide boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) activities against Israeli policy as well as a Global March to Jerusalem to call attention to continuing Judaisation and ethnic cleansing in the city that was supposed to be the multi-ethnic, multi-religious capital of a future Palestinian state.

Haneen Zoabi, 43, became a member of the Knesset in 2009, the first Palestinian woman to be elected on an Arab party's list.  She is a member of the Balad party that seeks to transform Israel into a democracy for all its citizens, irrespective of national, ethnic or religious identity. Zoabi was born in Nazareth to a Muslim family. In 2010 she participated in the Gaza Flotilla on board the Mavi Marmara. I spoke with her recently per Skype.

What does Land Day mean to you?

To me Land Day is a day of ongoing and a continuous struggle around the issue of “land property."  This is still the crucial issue between us and the state.  The core of the Zionist project is a continuous stealing of land from the Palestinians and transferring it to the Israeli Jews. Renaming the places, the junctions, the villages, the streets, and giving Jewish names to the landscape is part of this “confiscation."  It’s a way to steal from us and confiscate our historical relation with our homeland.  This is the meaning of Ariel Sharon's famous statement in the Knesset in 2002 when he said that the Palestinians inside Israel, whom he called "Israeli Arabs," in effect have only temporary "rights in the land," the land not yet confiscated, but "all the rights over the Land of Israel are Jewish rights."

During the 63 years since 1948, Israel has confiscated 85% of our land and turned it over to the exclusive use of the Jews. It has developed and built 1000 towns, cities and villages, all of them only for the Jews.  And ZERO for the Palestinians.  We live now on 2% of our land. We don't even have permission to build our own houses on our own land and thus have no rights to use our land that hasn’t been confiscated!

How does Israel's definition of itself as a "Jewish state" affect the Palestinian citizens of Israel?

The “Jewish state” is a state that has been established by Jews and is run by the Jews for the sake of the Jews -- all at the expense of the Palestinians. It’s a racist definition. The state declares me to be an outsider in this land, though I'm the opposite.  I'm the indigenous people.  I didn’t immigrate to Israel; it was Israel that immigrated to me.

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