September 14, 2014
Abdel Rahman Zuabi, a secular Muslim and proud Israeli who was the first Arab to sit on Israel’s Supreme Court, dies at age 82.
Born in the village of Sulam in 1932, Zuabi was a pioneer in many ways, such as being the first Arab to graduate from the Tel Aviv School of Law and Economics (later part of Tel Aviv University), where one of his classmates was Moshe Dayan. He flourished in his legal career and served as a judge on the Nazareth District Court for 20 years. He gained attention for his tough sentences in drug cases.
He served on the Shamgar Commission, the state committee formed under Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar to investigate the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in Hebron. Zuabi proved to be a tough questioner of settlers and senior army officers regarding the actions of settlers against Arabs and killer Baruch Goldstein’s ease at reaching the prayer hall to carry out the slaughter. Zuabi’s questions at times angered Shamgar, whose support he needed to win a Supreme Court appointment.
In 1999, exactly five years after the massacre, Zuabi took his seat as a Supreme Court justice. He was 66 and had been waiting 17 years since the government first discussed the idea of appointing an Arab to the court. Justice Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, who had joined calls to remove Zuabi from the Shamgar Commission, approved his court appointment to fill a nine-month vacancy.
Salim Jubran in 2004 became the first Arab to hold a permanent Supreme Court seat.