Ra'am-Ta'al members
Ra'am-Ta'al membersIsrael news photo: Flash 90

The 19th Knesset began work Tuesday with much fanfare. Media coverage of the emotional scenes from the end of the day, as the national anthem Hatikva played, missed one important detail: that many Arab MKs were no longer present.

A Knesset Channel camera caught one MK, the controversial Hanin Zoabi, rushing to grab her bag and leave immediately after taking her oath as an MK.

Zoabi was not alone. Several other Arab MKs left early, too, all with one goal: to avoid being present as Hatikva was sung.

Zoabi openly admitted that her plan was to avoid hearing the national anthem. “I left before the anthem played because it does not speak to me,” she was quoted in Yisrael Hayom as saying. “As an Arab woman born in this country, the anthem oppresses me and humiliates me.”

Hatikva expresses the Jewish longing to return and be a free people in the Jewish homeland and in Jerusalem.

While several Arab party MKs rushed out before the anthem, the heads of Arab parties were present a short time later for a group photo with President Shimon Peres.

In a similar incident last year, Arab-Israeli Supreme Court justice Salim Joubran stood for the national anthem but refused to sing. Joubran’s colleagues defended his decision, saying Arabs living in Israel should show respect for the anthem but should not be expected to sing along.

Several of the Israeli-Arab Knesset representatives frequently arouse controversy with anti-Israeli statements or gestures of support for Israel’s enemies. MK Ibrahim Sarsour of Ra’am met recently with one of the terrorists behind the Park Hotel massacre in which 30 Israelis were killed, while MK Afou Agbaria recently published a Facebook picture portraying Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as a bloody-handed killer.

MK Zoabi was widely condemned for taking part in an effort to forcibly break through Israel’s blockade of Hamas. Zoabi was aboard a ship, the Mavi Marmara, which attempted to sail to Gaza despite the blockade. Activists aboard the ship attacked IDF soldiers, wounding several of them, before soldiers opened fire and drove them off; photos seen later showed that Zoabi apparently knew of the planned attack.