First Published: 2013-10-22

More Arab women vie for local office in Israel
This year's election expected to double number of Arab women serving on local councils placing women much higher on local slates.
Middle East Online

Arab women put themselves on the political map

NAZARETH - From billboards across Nazareth shines the discreet smile of Hanin Zuabi, a controversial Arab woman MP who is hoping voters will chose her as mayor of Israel's largest Arab city.

This 44-year-old former maths teacher, her black hair cut into a sleek bob, is the only woman running for leadership of the sprawling northern city revered by Christians as Jesus' childhood home.

Zuabi is just one of a growing number of women from Israel's Arab minority vying for office in Tuesday's elections across 191 municipalities.

"Running for mayor sends an important message saying that Palestinian women are entering local politics and putting themselves on the political map," she said during campaigning.

Israel's Arab minority has its roots in the 160,000 Palestinians who stayed on their land after the creation of Israel in 1948. Today, they number more than 1.3 million, and often refer to themselves as '48 Palestinians.

"Nazareth needs to have international status," she says, flagging one of the main elements of her platform.

Known as capital of the northern Galilee region, Nazareth has a population of 82,000, 65 percent of which is Muslim and the rest Christian.

Posters and banners are plastered on the city's walls, windows and balconies, each declaring the merits of a particular candidate or list.

Zuabi, an MP with the leftwing Arab-Israeli Balad movement, is competing against four men for the top job, one of whom is the incumbent and clear frontrunner, Ramez Jaraiseh.

Although Zuabi won notoriety within Israel for her participation in a 2010 flotilla of activists trying to break the naval blockade on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, she has pushed hard to increase the female quota in both local and general elections.

Voters are casting two ballots -- one for mayor and one for a slate of candidates who will serve under him or her. Should there be no mayoral candidate who passes the 40 percent threshold, there will be a second round of voting on November 5.

This year's election is expected to double the number of Arab women serving on local councils.

In the last elections in 2008, 149 Arab women ran in the elections, with only six elected to local office. This year, there are 173, with forecasts predicting about 15 will be elected.

And this year, the women are placed much higher on the local slates.

Women are at the forefront of the municipal election in Sakhnin, another Arab town some 25 kilometres (15 miles) north of Nazareth, which is famed for its football team which stunned the nation by winning the State Cup in 2004.

Here the billboards feature images of Samar Abu Yunes, a 40-year-old lawyer who is topping the slate fielded by Hadash, the Arab-Jewish socialist party.

"Unfortunately, women have not featured very highly on Hadash's list until now, despite their calls for equality, but I am optimistic at this point," she said.

"I am now at the top of that list so my place is guaranteed on the city council," said the mother of four.

She believes women should be taking a leading role in women's issues, as well as those relating to children in the city of 28,000 people, where participating in the elections mixes family and politics.

Aida Tuma, who ran for parliament with Hadash in 2008 but didn't make it, said the number of women trying or a role in local politics is the result of tough experience and "a lot of serious work" which involved the establishment of The Women's Coalition.

"Five associations made a coalition to support women in the electoral process and to convince parties to put them high up on their lists and this is the first time that Arab women have contested elections in Haifa, Lod and Ramleh," she said.

"We trained those women who were nominated in public speaking, working under pressure and in public appearance, all of which are skills women will need," she said, saying the training sessions had drawn much cross-party support.


Russia airstrikes target ISIS infrastructure facilities in Syria

Israeli fire wounds at least 10 Palestinians in West Bank

Erdogan faces tough talks in meeting with EU leaders

UAE holds election for advisory council

First hajj stampede bodies arrive in Iran from Saudi Arabia

Erdogan urges Putin to reconsider air campaign in Syria

Iran expels Bahrain envoy in apparent retaliation

US urges Libya rivals to move forward with peace deal

Powers condemn targeting of Syrian opposition by Russia

Turkey accuses Russia of hitting Syria rebels to bolster Assad

Palestinians kill Israeli couple in West Bank shooting

Russia again strikes Assad regime's foes

Iran backs Russian military strategy in Syria

S&P: Gulf banks' net earnings set to slide

Russia confirms new air strikes on targets in Syria

12 killed in Ankara bus stop crash

Syrians, Afghans clash in German refugee centre

South Sudan's peace deal means little in Koch swamps

Trump: If I’m elected, Syrians go back home!

Iran says 464 dead in Saudi hajj stampede

Saudi, Iran agree to repatriate dead pilgrims

Abbas: Palestinians no longer feel bound by past agreements with Israel

Russia, US to hold ‘de-confliction’ talks on Syria

Three conditions as France voices concern over Russia involvement in Syria

Iraq Kurdish forces recapture land from ISIS jihadists

Tunisia buries Sousse gunman under strict security cordon

Iran diplomat missing after hajj stampede

Six days after hajj tragedy, Iran-Saudi tensions escalate

For first time in history, Palestinians to raise flag at UN

Finland freezes asylum decisions for Iraq, Somalia refugees

UK Labour Party ready to support Syria airstrikes, with conditions

Iran Foreign Minister under fire over ‘Obama handshake’

Parliamentary and religious support as Russia launches airstrikes in Syria

Assad regime strikes kill 27 civilians in central Syria

Iraq kidnappers free remaining 16 Turkish workers

Iran threatens 'fierce' reaction if Saudi Arabia does not repatriate hajj victims

Damascus confirms Assad request for military aid from Russia

Europe refugee crisis in focus at UN

France launches war crimes inquiry against Syria regime

Coalition seizes Iran boat with arms for Yemen rebels

Putin gets unanimous parliament support for Syria air strikes

Morocco government blocks opening of first Ikea

Israeli air raids hit Gaza in response to rocket fire

Saudi FM insists Assad must go or be ousted

US training program of Syrian rebels ‘under review’