In the Chicago Roman Catholic diocese in 2010, 50 priests published a letter in the local diocesan paper advising Catholics not to rent to Jews. Shocking, really unbelievable these days so I am glad it never happened. But it did happen in Israel where serious theological reflection id at a scarcity in some Orthodox communities.
This is but one of the stories Haneen Zoabi told in April at New York University, traditionally a serious Jewish centre of scholarship. The brave Palestinian Arab who sits in Israel’s Knesset spoke powerful truths to an overflowing crowd, almost all of whom are fed a diet of pap and obfuscation by different American media outlets. her performance was deszcribed as “staggering.”
Ms Zoabi from Nazareth was elected in 2009 the same year right-wing MKs physically assaulted her and tried to strip her of her parliamentary rights in retaliation for her being aboard the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara en route to Gaza to deliver humanitarian aid and that bastion of democracy The Central Elections Committee tried and failed to disqualify her from running in two subsequent elections.
In a wide ranging speech Zoabi took her audience through some basic history about the lack of democracy in Israel for 1.5 million Palestinians who were not expelled in 1948 The Nakba law criminalizing public commemoration of the loss of Palestine is but one of more than 50 laws that “discriminate against us in every field of life.” she said. According to the citizenship law, any immigrant can become a citizen of Israel except a Palestinian—if Jewish, instantly, if Christian, gradually. But if an Israeli Palestinian marries a Palestinian from elsewhere, the spouse cannot live in Israel. By law, Palestinians are not allowed to study their own history.
By law, Jewish residents of 700 communities, which together control 60 percent of the land in Israel, can reject Palestinians for lack of social compatibility. “What is this if not apartheid?” Zoabi asked, wishing American politicians were more aware of these discriminatory laws. Sixty-four percent of Palestinian children live below the poverty line and only 2 percent of Palestinians are employed in the private sector. There are no Palestinian banks, insurance companies or universities, not even licenses to raise poultry. Israeli Palestinians live on only 3 percent of the land because they are denied permits to use even land they still own. Palestinians are not allowed to develop their own economy or to be equally involved in the Israeli economy.
And finally this shocker In 2010, 50 rabbis published a letter saying “do not rent to Arabs,” which elicited little debate. “Close your eyes and imagine,” Zoabi urged, “if 50 priests urged people not to rent to Jews.
Philip Weiss on his blog Mondoweiss wrote: Zoabi spoke– a woman of small stature but majestic spirit and political intelligence, exercising complete control over the crowd, even over her opponents holding the Israeli flag at the back of the room and over Theodore the student from Stuyvesant High School in the third row who rose to challenge her — I kept wondering why the New York Times has not run a huge profile of this woman, why my president and congresspeople are not meeting her, why she does not have the status that she ought to have in our discourse as a global justice figure, along the lines of a Havel, a Walesa, a Martin Luther King, a John Lewis, an Aung San Suu Kyi. And the answer of course is, Because she is Palestinian. Why have you not heard of her?