A Palestinian-Israeli politician is appealing a court ruling barring her from running in Israel’s general elections next month.
Last week, Knesset member Haneen Zoabi was disqualified for “undermining” Israel because she was on board the Mavi Marmara ship in May 2010 as part of an international flotilla challenging Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip.
The Turkish ship was boarded by Israeli special forces as it approached waters off Gaza. In the violence that followed, nine activists were shot dead by the commando’s.
Israel’s Supreme Court now has four days to decide whether to revoke Zoabi’s election ban.
Speaking to Al Jazeera on Thursday, Zoabi said the ban was the culmination of a long process of persecution.
“Threats, I would say [I received] hundreds of threats, by letters, by email, by phonecall … They have disqualified me, stripped me from some Parliamentarian rights, such as my diplomatic passport,” Zoabi said.
“The Israeli Knesset is trying not just to disqualify me, but also to disqualify the Arab citizens in Israel. Because I represent those who vote for me, and the right wing in the Knesset – which is the majority within the Knesset – is trying to delegitimise the Arab voice within the Knesset,” she said.
“It is my responsibility as a Palestinian; it is my responsibility as a human being to struggle against the siege, to struggle against the occupation of my people, to struggle against the oppression of my people, and to struggle against the racism against the Palestinian citizens inside Israel.
“So for me it’s the values, the humanistic, universalistic values of freedom, of equality, of justice. I think we should ask Israel, and I ask the Israeli policies, what is the basis for the oppression of the Palestinian people?”
Earlier this month, Israel’s Central Elections Committee voted 19 to 9 with one abstention to block Zoabi’s candidacy for the January 22 general election.
The electoral committee disqualified Zoabi on two grounds: “Negating Israel’s existence as a Jewish state” and “support for an enemy state or terrorist organisation engaged in armed conflict against Israel,” spokesman Giora Pordes said.
Centrist and left-leaning Israeli politicians argued against disqualifying Zoabi.
Al Jazeera’s Jane Ferguson, reporting from Jerusalem, said although the Supreme Court hearing did not yet reach any concrete decision about the case, it must decide whether or not Zoabi will be disqualified or whether or not she can run in the 2013 elections by December 30.
“So we are expecting an announcement on that within the coming days,” our correspondent said.
“[Zoabi] was famously involved in the freedom flotilla in May 2010. In Israel, among politicians across the Knesset, from left to right, it was widely condemned and seen as a very controversial move that anybody involved in Israeli politics would have been on that ship.
“Her party is saying that they are being discriminated against and that if she is disqualified, they themselves will actually boycott the vote,” Ferguson said, adding however that most people in Jerusalem did not believe she would be disqualified.
Ferguson said the case “opens up a wider debate about Palestinian-Israelis, not only in Israel, but those involved in politics here”.