Hanin Zoabi Is Born Zoabi in the Knesset building, December 22, 2015. Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

May 23, 1969

Pioneering Knesset member Hanin Zoabi is born into a Muslim family in Nazareth.

Zoabi earns a bachelor’s in philosophy and psychology from the University of Haifa and a master’s from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is the first Arab citizen of Israel to graduate with a degree in media studies and establishes the first media studies classes in Arab schools. Before entering Israeli politics, Zoabi works as a communications teacher in elementary and secondary schools and serves as the director-general of the I’lam Media Center for Palestinian Arabs in Israel between 2003 and 2008.

In 2001 she joins Balad, an Arab political party that advocates for the rights of Israel’s Arab citizens and calls for greater democratic freedoms. Balad also opposes the idea that Israel is a strictly Jewish state. Zoabi first seeks a Knesset seat on the Balad slate in 2006 but is too low on the list to claim one of the three seats the party wins. She is one of the three Balad members who win seats in 2009, however, making her the first Arab woman elected to the Knesset as a member of a predominantly Arab party. Two Arab women in the Knesset before her, Hussniya Jabara and Nadia Hilou, were members of broader left-wing parties: Meretz and Labor.

Zoabi serves 10 years in the Knesset before deciding not to run again in April 2019. In addition to being a member of parliament committees on women, children, and education, culture and sports, she joins caucuses focusing on Arab issues, police violence, human rights and suicide.

She opposes Israel’s existence and calls in 2018 for a single, binational state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea or for a two-state solution in which one state is Palestinian and the other is secular, not Jewish. She joins the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla in its attempt to break Israel’s sea blockade of the Gaza Strip, and she calls the soldiers who seize the Mavi Marmara and kill 10 activists on board “murderers.” The Knesset Ethics Committee bans her for six months in July 2014 after she says the abductors and killers of three Israeli teens are not terrorists and for a week in May 2018 after she accuses Israeli soldiers of murdering Palestinians.