The Israeli High Court ruled on Feb. 9 that Heba Yazbak, a member of Knesset (MK), will be allowed to run in the March 2 Israeli elections despite an overwhelming vote in Knesset calling for her disqualification.
Head of the Joint Arab List Ayman Odeh praised the Supreme Court’s ruling, saying that efforts to incite against Arabs have crashed.
“The campaign of political incitement of the extreme right crashed before the realities of the law,” Odeh said. “Anyone who supported disqualifying her should be ashamed. MK Yazbak will continue in the next Knesset fighting for peace, equality and democracy for all.”
Salwa Hdeeb, a member of the Fatah central committee, told Arab News that Israel tries to gag Palestinian voices in general, and especially voices within Knesset.
“Heba Yazbak has an audience and is popular because she is able to touch people with her strong legal knowledge of Israeli policies. They are provoked by her quiet demeanor yet strong position that angers her enemies and makes her a target for the extreme Israeli right-wing.”
Hdeeb said that Yazbak has supported Palestinians in Jerusalem whose homes were threatened with demolition by Israel, and she had done the same with the people of the village of Araqbeen in Israel.
“She has also defended Palestinian political prisoners and said in an official document to the Knesset that they are prisoners of war. She has also stood by the people of Jerusalem defending Al-Aqsa from Jewish extremists.”
Experts in gender issues say that attacks against strong Palestinian women have become a prevailing phenomenon in Israeli society. It appears that articulate Arab women bring out the worst in Israelis who fear such women because they challenge the stereotype that they have of Palestinian women.
Afaf Jaabari, a lecturer in gender and migration at the University of East London, told Arab News that Israelis fear such independent women because it threatens one of the tenants of worldwide support for Israel.
“Israel has worked on gaining world sympathy precisely on the basis of being a democracy that respects human rights and that they are dealing with barbaric backward people. Women like Yazbak and before that Haneen Zoubi, Ahed Tamimi and member of the Palestinian legislature Khalida Jarrar destroys that narrative.”
Yazbak, who has a Ph.D. from Tel Aviv University in sociology and anthropology, and is a member of the Joint List from the Balad party, was threatened with disqualification for her support of Palestinian and Arab nationalists and former prisoners. Right-wing Israeli attackers consider her to have praised terrorism and asked the Israeli high court to remove her from the Arab Joint list for the upcoming Israeli Knesset elections.
Tamar Zandberg, head of the left-wing Meretz faction, called on the Right to accept the ruling on Yazbak and not “incite as usual against Arabs and the courts.” The Likud called the ruling “shameful.”
Yazbak has vowed to “continue to work for political and civil justice, against the occupation and against racism, discrimination and incitement.”
The left-wing Israeli journalist and political analyst, Anat Saragusti, said that the issue was about discrimination and a struggle of narratives. Saragusti told Arab News: “It is sad to see how opinionated and strong Palestinian women get a misogynist attitude as if they are not entitled to have an independent world view.”