Israeli-born Sara Zoabi has become the embodiment of loyalty toward her country. She advocates for Israel and debunks all the lies about “apartheid” and “separate laws” for Arabs and Jews. She is a public speaker who has lectured in several countries and venues, and has been in film clips about Israel, demonstrating that she is free to speak her mind and to dress as she wishes. She has written letters to leaders in the Arab world, and has spoken in the Knesset. She continues on her mission to delegitimise all inaccuracies about Israel. As I interviewed her, I realised what an amazing woman she is, and her sincerity is beyond measure. I present to you Sara Zoabi.
M.C.: Where did you grow up? Where you raised in a home where Israel is your country, like everyone else?
S.Z.: I was born in Israel, in a village in the North. I did not grow up in a home that was anti-Israel and anti-Jewish. I grew up in a traditional Muslim home with human values. My parents fast on Ramadan—they pray. They taught us to respect every person, whoever they might be. I remember from my childhood that Jews were part of our household—they would come to visit us. Yes, that proves that peace and love, love of others (a different person) stems from our homes and the education that you receive—that’s what I believe. Peace begins at home. A person who grows up on hate—if you kill a Jew you will go to heaven—you will never be able to have peace with this person.
M.C.: When and why did you support the State of Israel? What is the reaction that you get from Arabs and Jews?
S.Z: I will tie these two questions together.
S.Z.: Yes. The story of my love, my loyalty and my strong bond to the homeland, is a never ending love story. I have always loved the State. The state in which I was born and grew up, the state in which I have equal, equal rights, the land and the people on it, the Jewish People; they are the inspiration for my love. You are a wonderful people. The hate and anti-Semitism against the Jews in the State of Israel drives me mad, makes me crazy. I don’t like when bad things are said about the State of Israel and the Jews because it’s not true. Because I live with them, I was brought up among them, because I’ve lived in Israel from the day that I was born, so I know. I don’t feel any hatred and harassment of Arabs, and the Muslims in particular. On the contrary, my state, (and the Jews,) respects and embraces us to her heart—although my country suffers from severe Muslim terror, from within and from the outside. We have a fair and impartial democratic country, it gives us freedom of speech, expression, religion, dress, worship. A country that takes care of all of her citizens, with no difference between race and religion. My country is a democratic country, it is the only democratic country in the Middle East, and I, me here, the Muslim Arab wants to mention with a huge spotlight (put a huge spotlight on), with all of my power, the truth about the State of Israel and the Jewish people.
Now with respect to, “What is the reaction that you get from Arabs and Jews?” Because of what I am, and because I sympathise with the Jews, and that I came out and spoke about what is on my heart, my truth about the State of Israel and the Jewish people, I have paid a hefty price, and I am still paying. I have accumulated many opponents, threats, slander, I’ve been hurt by my family, I’ve lost childhood friends. Unntrue and nasty rumours were spread about me, my house was broken into, I was beaten and threatened inside my house. I ran from house to house. I was like a fugitive, escaping between safe houses, and my son had to escape overseas for long periods of time and I didn’t know where he was. From the side of…and from the side of the Jews I was shown warmth and love.
M.C: Can I write that he is Muhammad Zoabi?
S.Z.: Yes, my son.
M.C: Or just “her son” without his name?
S.Z.: I don’t know because he’s used to that. He’s in the army now, I don’t know. Yes, everyone knows…her son Muhammad Zoabi, you can say her son…yes, write it.
M.C.: (There were tears in my eyes as Sara continued to tell her story, and I felt very emotional.)
S.Z.: Because my son also paid a heavy price. He paid a heavy price and he escaped overseas. He didn’t live his childhood, he didn’t live it, sorry. We can say that he had a trauma in his life. He didn’t live his childhood, my son, he didn’t live his age. He didn’t live his age, he lived in fear, ran away overseas, he got into something that was larger than his age. Instead of him going out and enjoying his life, he did things that were very important. He shook things up, he shook it up, he shook up the country. Do you know what shook up means? He is the first Arab, since the establishment of the state, who did this at his age. Show me a 16 year-old Muslim Arab who did what my son did, and show me a Muslim woman who did what I did. Because it’s not easy; it’s scary. It’s like swimming against the tide; it’s not easy.
(Like his mother, Mohammad Zoabi is an outspoken Zionist who has made videos and has been interviewed where he expressed his love and support for Israel.)
M.C.: I will write this.
S.Z.: Yes. The questions. There are questions 5 and 6 together: (M.C.) “Did you ever considered becoming a Knesset member?”, “What changes would you make if you had the possibility?”
S.Z.: Now, with respect to the Knesset member; first of all my nature/character is a little contradictory to the world of politics…
S.Z.: I am very sensitive. It’s a world that I have to get to know more about. Maybe I will consider it at the right time, and you also need money. To be a Knesset member, you need a lot of money. Now, if I were a Knesset member, the changes that I would make….a few things. First thing, worldwide hasbara (publicity/propaganda)—strengthen the hasbara in Israel and overseas. As a Knesset member, I would make a change to the Israeli hasbara, because I am an Arabic speaker, and I am familiar with the way of life between the Arabs and the Jews, so I am the right person at the right place. Second thing, I think that the Jews don’t know the Arab world and the mentality and the style of the Arab world well enough, that is why it is hard for them to cope. In the Arab world, they respect and admire power. I would change laws, if anyone is a traitor to the country or subverts the state, with respect to democracy, I waive democracy here. The democracy has become incitement against the State. The democracy is being used in order to cause incitement against the Jews in the name of democracy. Yes. Do you understand what I mean? So I’d try to pass laws regarding the treatment of terrorists and anyone who subverts the State.
With respect to the death penalty for terrorists, by the way, I’m against it, I’m against it. Why? Because that’s what he wants, to die a shaheed, to die a holy martyr. You’re doing him a favour. What fun! It will encourage the terror attacks. No, it’s not, I’m against the death penalty. Not true; you are making a big mistake. A person who goes to carry out a terror attack is programmed to die. On the contrary, if he doesn’t die it’s a disappointment. Now what?…Sure! They don’t get this. The opposite, a verdict where he knows that his family will pay for what he did, his house will be seized, taken, his family will be thrown out of the country. Yes, he should know that his parents, the family will pay the price. He will not die a holy martyr, no! He will not die a holy martyr. He won’t die. He will be thrown into prison like a dog for the rest of his days. He should suffer. Every terrorist, and every person who dares even touch a hair, of anyone, and of a Jew…and here, today the terror attack that happened. Why? I cried, why? Because he’s a Jew? They shot him, because he’s a Jew? That…that’s your reason? You human filth, because he’s a Jew you murder him? Until when? Until when will animals be more merciful than you? Enough! So, we need to, us, the Israelis, the Jews need to change our attitude to more powerful. We shouldn’t care what the world says; apartheid, not apartheid. Either way, they will say apartheid. So we need to, we need to take a more forceful approach.
Another thing, I would make laws that all Knesset members, especially Arabs who subvert the state, should have their immunity revoked because they, due to their immunity, are allowed to do whatever they want. They betray our soldiers, they subvert the State. No! There should be a law that every Knesset member who subverts against the State in the name of democracy, and betrays the soldiers and all of these things, immunity should be revoked and they should be punished. They are not above everything. Will be punished, get their punishment. He’s not above everything, it’s not that because he has immunity that he is allowed do anything. So, we need to make changes, so that Knesset members who express in a way that harms the country, or meet with enemies, or meet with the terrorists’ people, families. There is no immunity for these types of things. Do you understand what I mean?
An additional change, we need to encourage Arabs who love Israel and are loyal to the country, to establish a support system for them—unifying state framework to unify the people who want things to be different. Why? So that they see that these people have a stage and respect. Look at (Arab Knesset Member) Ahmed Tibi who has a stage, and he employs people and arranges jobs for people, because he’s against the state and he spits on the Jews. He spits on the Jews, yes. He spits and we give him a stage and respect and a function/job and he can make decisions and help Arabs get functions/jobs. By the way, these are Arabs who think like he does. And the loyal Arabs, nobody pays any attention to them. The moment that Israel-loving Arabs receive respect and status and they are integrated into a certain framework, like into an NGO through the State, to give them a stage, to find a way to integrate them, to give them the respect so that the whole world sees this.
M.C: In your opinion, what is the difference in the lives of Arabs in Israel and those in Arab countries?
S.Z: If I compare life in the State of Israel to life in Arab countries, there is no comparison. Here the State allows women equal rights, such as education, freedom of movement, legal protection against harassment, compared to Arab women in Arab countries who are discriminated against compared to the men. Israel is an equitable country, a democracy, civilized, enlightened state that embraces all of her citizens, without differentiating between them, a country of all its citizens, the Muslims, the Christians, the Druze, the Circassians, like in conditions that they wouldn’t get in Arab countries, and reality proves this.
M.C.: As a Muslim, you can dress however you like.
S.Z.: However I like, and I made a video, I proved to the whole world…
M.C.: Yes, nobody will tell you that you are required to put on a hijab, you can not put one on if you want…
S.Z.: No, no, go, go to Facebook and see what I wrote about the video, go there and use a few sentences. I proved to the world, that while there are restrictions in Europe, I wore the veil in the State of Israel and I am respected. I have freedom of worship, freedom of dress, and I am respected. In the State of Israel, a million Israeli Arabs live in the State of Israel. They can’t stand the Jews, like Arabs that are controlled by Arabs in Arab countries, you understand? Each religion can worship however it wants, without being disturbed, no interference, mosques, churches, synagogues, next to one another in the same town. One next to the other.
M.C: What is your opinion about Israelis of any religion who oppose Israel? What would you tell them?
S.Z: Now, the answers differ here. Each religion has a different answer. There is one common answer; it is the only country, the only democratic country in the Middle East, that gives equal rights to people of all religions, respects the freedom of worship for all religions. Every religion has an interest to look after the country, because in the state nobody bothers them. They are respected, their holy places are looked after, they keep their rights to pray. Everything is alright, so why should they harm the country? The whole Middle East is boiling. Muslims are killing one another. Sunnis are murdering Shiites and Shiites are murdering Sunnis, sorry. They have a mess, and wars, only in Israel is the quiet. This is the only place in the Middle East where you will find this.
Now, with regards to each religion. The Jews, let’s take the Jews; they don’t have an interest to resist the country, because it’s the land of their forefathers, it’s the place that protects them. Throughout history they have suffered here. It’s their house, and their army, where they can protect themselves. It’s the Holy Land that God gave to them. This, this is their house. They do not have another house, the Jews. The Christians, now with regard to the Christians. The Christians should have an interest, because they suffer greatly in the Middle East, from harassments. They are harassed, their churches are burned down. Here in the State of Israel, they are respected. Nobody bothers them, so they have an interest to look after the country. Many Christians left Bethlehem because they didn’t want to be governed by the Palestinian government. It’s a holy city for the Christians, Bethlehem.
M.C.: Really? Because sometimes they say that it’s because of us, the Jews, that they left Bethlehem.
S.Z.: No! Because of you? No! It’s because of the Palestinian government.
M.C.: So why do they lie?
S.Z.: Let them lie. They are scared.
About the Muslims, they have an interest. In the world there are 57 Muslim countries, right? For the most part, in most of them they are shooting each other. Sunnis against Shiites and Shiites against Sunnis. Also in the territories there are wars between Fatah and Hamas, wars between clans. In Israel the Jews enable and allow them freedom of worship, she doesn’t harm them and she respects them and she even respects them in the name of freedom of expression. They incite, and the State respects that, because it’s in the name of democracy. The Prime Minister (Benjamin Netanyahu) goes to visit them in their villages. The Muslims don’t want to live like they live in the Arab countries. The government there, in Arab countries, places tape over their mouths (closes their mouths.) Over there, they are scared to open their mouths, to express their beliefs. There, they kill them for every little thing that they do contrary to the ideas. If they oppose the opinions of the government they punish them. They are scared to utter a word, and a negative word about the president or the king. So the interest of the Muslims is to live in Israel, which offers them freedom of worship and religion and a good life, and moreover, gives them scholarships for their children. But to my regret, the ego of the Arabs, some of them, they want to rule. They want to chop down the branch that they are sitting on.
M.C.: In your opinion, what are the greatest obstacles to peace? What is the best strategy to create peace in the Middle East?
S.Z: The obstacle to peace is because of the lack of alleviation in Israel. If they recognize us, there won’t be an obstacle. The obstacle to peace is the lack of understanding of what the other side wants. The Arab side does not want peace; it wants the entire area of Israel; not only the 67 borders. They want the 48 borders too, with no connection to occupation. They don’t want to have Jews here. They don’t recognize the State of Israel at all and are not willing to recognize it. If they are not willing to recognize the State of Israel, how can we have peace? Even, if they agree to have peace, they agree. Maybe if Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas of the PLO) will agree to peace, they might murder him…maybe. Maybe Hamas won’t want that, and if Hamas agrees, maybe Fatah won’t agree, and if Fatah, if they agree, maybe another organization will be established, so it will never end. So, in my opinion we’re dealing with people who don’t believe that Jews have the right to exist, not here and not anywhere else in the world. Simply, the world doesn’t understand this, they are deceiving everyone, in my opinion.
Errr, I don’t want to delve deeply into that, it’s too political, you understand? So, I don’t want to get into that.
M.C.: I understand.
S.Z.: They should be given residency (Arabs in Judea and Samaria) and those who are good and loyal should get citizenship. Yes, most of them, but I’m not allowed, because that it political. Because you only need strength/power, only power.
M.C.: What is your message to all of us?
S.Z.: To all of us? To all of us, as Arabs, Jews, the State of Israel. If the world…I call on the whole world to leave us alone. They should deal with other things. The world should look at what’s going on in Syria and in all the places where they are murdering one another. We (Israelis) have full rights to protect ourselves. Israel has the right to protect her citizens. They (other countries) should keep out of our business. Now, our message, to all of us–the country is good to all of us, to all the religions. It allows freedom of religion, worship, expression. She (State of Israel) is an enlightened country. She is the ultimate country; the best country to live in, the most successful, and here women have an opportunity to succeed and be educated. We simply have to value the place in which we are living and to look after the country, and not to be ungrateful here. All of us have to be grateful and to look after the country, Jews and Arabs, because she’s important to all of us, and don’t complain all the time. She is the island of sanity. Thank you very much and Am Yisrael Chai (the people of Israel live) and Tehiyeh Medinat Yisrael (the State of Israel will live)!
S.Z.: Write, “Am Yisrael Chai”(the people of Israel live) and Tehiyeh Medinat Yisrael” (the State of Israel will be), that’s my signature.
M: Yes, I will write it.
S.Z.: But I am a proud Arab, Muslim, Zionist, and it’s important. My identity as a Muslim and a Zionist do not oppose one another; they go together. Zionist means that I believe that the Jews have a right to their own country in the Holy Land, the land of Israel. It’s a right and not a charity. It is even written in the Quran, there’s a verse in the Quran, “Enter, My People, the Holy Land which Allah has assigned for you. Do not turn back, or you shall be ruined”. That’s a verse from the Quran.
M.C.: Thank you very, very much.
We parted with a warm hug, filled with emotions, and we became sisters during that afternoon. The Israeli-Muslim and the Israeli-Jew, as it ought to be.