Asma Agbarieh-Zahalka objects to ‘nationalistic’ discourse and promises to represent Jewish & Arab workers pitted against each other by gov’t’s ‘divide & conquer’ policy.
While many Arab Knesset members are known mostly for their harsh criticism of Israel, one Arab woman sees things quite differently.
Together with her Jewish partners, Asma Agbarieh Zahalka leads Daam, the “Workers’ Party.” She aims to direct the political discourse to a wholly different area.
“We combine a political agenda with a social one,” she said. “Our aim is to represent Jewish and Arab workers, the unemployed, women and youth who are pitted against each other by the government’s “divide and conquer” policy.
“This policy is designed to prevent a real dialogue between Arabs and Jews on the basis of social and class issues, a dialogue which will replace the existing nationalistic, isolationist and extremist discourse.”
She objects to Balad MK Hanin Zoabi‘s “political persecution,” but disagrees with her political ways, because “she isolates the Arab public from the rest of society. I believe in an anti-nationalistic discourse which combines a political agenda with the end of the occupation.”
2,645 votes in the previous election
Agbarieh-Zahalka, a Jaffa resident, is married and has a four-year old boy. She decided at 22 to join the newly-formed leftist party Daam in 1995.
Though the choice of a young woman from a traditional background to join the socialist political world was questioned at first, doubts dissipated quickly as she climbed up the party ladder and became Daam’s leader.
She joined the party after working as a language editor in the party’s paper, a role which exposed her to the hardships of the lower classes.
“The distress of workers, farmers and the unemployed convinced me of the need to fix society, and not just proof articles,” she said.
In the “Tel Aviv Left” and among Arab youth a growing interest has been noted in the party, which ran in several elections but failed to get close to the electoral threshold of 2%.
In 2009 it received only 2645 votes, achieving similar results in the Tel Aviv municipal elections, where Agbarieh-Zahalka ran for mayor.
But the slim chances don’t worry her. “The Knesset is not our only arena. We are active daily in the streets, in factories and in campuses.
“The Knesset, important as it is, is not the only arena for action. Nevertheless, I have a feeling we’ll get there.”
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