Haneen Zoubi
Bitterlemons (Interview)
November 28, 2011 - 1:00am

bitterlemons: What is driving the push for right-wing legislation in Israel?

Zoubi: Israel is engaging in a struggle between the Jewishness of the state and democracy. She perceives that she is in a position to choose between "Jewish values" and "democratic values". She is making a very clear statement that she intends to defend the Jewishness of this country and to place obstacles in the path of the true struggle for democracy.

These kinds of laws are not only a reflection of the racism of the state, but they are also seeking to change the rules of the game. What was once a legal struggle will be from now on an illegal struggle. These laws are more dangerous than just being a reflection of racism; they are actually changing the borders of political legitimacy. Every definition of democracy, liberalism and legitimacy is now to be conditioned on Jewishness and the Jewish state.

bitterlemons: Which of the laws passed or proposed do you think are the most dangerous to your constituents?

Zoubi: I think there is a difference in function; there are laws that delegitimize identity and there are laws that delegitimize political movements that challenge the Jewishness of the state. I cannot tell which law is the most dangerous. There are laws that continue the functions of the old laws that confiscated land. They are passing laws against [Palestinian] prisoners. They are passing laws against the entrance of Palestinians to the state. They are passing laws for loyalty.

This [law requiring an] expression of loyalty for Zionism is really new because up until now, the state was dependent on policies of loyalty. It sought to formulate a new Palestinian personality, one that expressed loyalty, but it was always on the level of policy. Now they have moved to making laws of loyalty. This is very dangerous.

Why are they moving from "policies of loyalty" to "laws of loyalty"? Because the policies didn't succeed. Part of the Palestinian struggle was really to preserve the Palestinian identity, to preserve the Palestinian personality, to express that "we are part of the Palestinian people" and that the struggle of the Palestinian people is in part our struggle.

Israel thinks that it can succeed by shifting these policies to laws, making them more damaging for citizens to violate.

bitterlemons: I wanted to ask you about the plan to relocate 30,000 Bedouin in the Negev. How is it that the government can simply move, against their will, so many voting citizens of the state?

Zoubi: Yes, all of them are citizens, and the strategy is simply to control their land. We are talking about the last three percent of the land that they own. Thirty-six percent of the population of the Negev is Palestinian, living on three percent of their [original] land. We are talking about a half a million dunams of the Negev's 12 million dunams, which constitutes half of historic Palestine. At the same time, the Knesset passed just days ago a law establishing individual farms for Jewish residents of the Negev. So, on the one hand, you have a law to legalize thousands of dunams of individual properties for Jews, and on the other hand, laws that confiscate one-half billion dunams from Palestinians in the Negev.

The struggle, you see, is not only over one aspect. It is over land, over identity, regarding Judaizing the public sphere, privileges to those who serve in the army--every single aspect is being legislated.

bitterlemons: What do you see as your role?

Zoubi: Actually, as Knesset members, our influence over laws and policy is zero.

But this is not how I measure our role. Our role is really to make our policy loud, to make a statement, to raise public awareness and to give a model to our society on how to challenge this--a model that "these are our rights", that we must not give up, that it is not enough to speak up about individual rights and social and economic rights, but that we must link these rights with our collective and political rights as Palestinians and as indigenous people.


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