Bedouin Knesset Member Assassinated (L-R) MK Hamad Abu Rabia and MK Moshe Dayan, September 1975. Photo: GPO Israel

January 12, 1981

Hamad Abu-Rabia, age 51, the first Bedouin to serve in the Knesset, is fatally shot in his car outside the Holy Land Hotel in Jerusalem in the first assassination of a member of the Knesset.

Abu-Rabia, a Negev native who attended high school in Hebron, was a tribal leader who focused on improving Bedouin education but also was criticized for being too accommodating toward the government seizure of Bedouin lands for airfields in the Negev. He was first elected to the Knesset in 1973 on the Arab List for Bedouins and Villagers and was re-elected as part of the United Arab List in 1977 and 1979.

The killing is carried out by the sons of a political rival, Jabr Muadi, a Druze who served in six of the first eight Knessets. Abu-Rabia and Muadi are both members of the United Arab List, which won only one seat in the April 1979 Knesset election. Abu-Rabia, who received the seat as the No. 1 name on the party list, agreed to rotate the post with Muadi and one other Arab politician. But after a court ruled that rotation agreements for seats are illegal, Abu-Rabia refused to resign in favor of Muadi in 1981.

Bedouin, Druze and Jews are among the thousands who attend Abu-Rabia’s funeral in the Negev, including President Yitzhak Navon, Deputy Prime Minister Simcha Ehrlich and Knesset Speaker Yitzhak Berman. Prime Minister Menachem Begin praises Abu-Rabia as a “good man and a faithful citizen of Israel.”

Despite fears, the assassination does not spark violence between the Bedouin and Druze communities. Muadi serves the rest of Abu-Rabia’s term but never again is elected to the Knesset.