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.

 

UN Security Council calls for Polisario pullback from Guerguerat

UK warns of ‘increased level of terrorist activity’

Merkel warns EU-Turkey ties 'severely hit' by Ankara developments

Pope Francis flies to Egypt as 'pilgrim of peace'

420 tonnes of plastic bags seized in year in Morocco since ban

President of European rights group censured for Assad meeting

Palestinians protest to support prisoners on hunger strike

Turkish army, Syrian Kurdish militia in new clashes

Erdogan to rejoin Turkey ruling party next week

Germany urges EU not to break off Turkey accession talks

OPCW says chemical weapons allegedly used 45 times in Syria

Netanyahu slams German foreign minster as 'insensitive'

Erdogan hopes for 'new page' with US under Trump

UN envoy to Libya to visit Sudan for peace talks

Tunisian PM booed out of town hall meet

Russian spy ship sinks off Turkish coast

London police arrest ‘terror act’ knifeman by parliament

Palestinians strike in support of protesting prisoners

Two Saudi soldiers killed in rocket attack near Yemen border

German soldier plots attack under refugee disguise

Iraq forces retake town of Hatra from IS

Syria accuses Israel of strike near Damascus airport

10 dead after strikes on rebel-held hospitals in Syria

Turkey’s AKP to hold special congress readmitting Erdogan

EU reviews Libya request for naval equipment

Jail terms over death of Moroccan fishmonger

UN appoints Syrian Olympic swimmer as ambassador

Bahraini activist on hunger strike behind bars

Calls on Saudi social media for jobless protest

Tunisian coastguards no match for high-speed smugglers

US wants 'strong, democratic' Turkey: ambassador

Israeli tank trades shots with Hamas in Gaza

Syria says France 'hiding truth' about chemical attack

NATO chief warns Turkey to respect ‘rule of law’

Exiled Turkish journalist urges EU to confront Erdogan

Mass funeral for dozens slain in Syria bus attack

Qatar insists Baghdad had ‘full knowledge’ of hostage deal

UN eyes new Yemen peace talks

Erdogan resumes Gulen arrests after referendum win

Turkey opposition heads to European court to challenge referendum

Turkey says informed US, Russia prior to Kurdish strikes

Iraqi forces liberate ancient city of Hatra from IS

Saudi fire stops explosives-laden boat from Yemen

50 Syria migrants stranded on Morocco-Algeria border

Libya asks EU for patrol boats to stem migrant wave