Nahil Zoabi
Nahil Zoabi Emanuel Ben Sabo

After 30 years in education field and 16 as the school principal in the village of Nin in Kfar Nin in the Galilee, Nahil Zoabi resigned from his position. Throughout his career, the charismatic educator has encouraged students and staff to accept the Jewish State, making efforts to integrate into local society.

Arutz Sheva interviewed Zoabi on his decision to retire, the price he has already paid for his views, as well as the possibility of him choosing to enter the political field.

Zoabi makes it clear that he has not chosen a direction following so many years as an educator. "I have not yet decided on a specific field of focus be it social, educational, ideological or otherwise, but wherever I go, I will dedicate my future to endowing human values in the hearts and minds of members of the Arab-Israeli community; taking an active role as an Israeli Arab loyal to the State of Israel.

'My options are open'

Regarding his support for Israel, which has earned Zoabi acclaim and appreciation on the one hand and criticism on the other, the long-time educator says: "It's all a matter of deep faith. Over the past 11-12 years, I've dealt with it on a daily basis, strengthening and promoting this message—that I am an Israeli Arab in every way. Giving up is not an option. Anyone with a head on their shoulders knows that what I am saying is true. It gives me hope that half the Arab world is also interested in peace with Israel," he says."

Regarding reactions he has received from members of the Arab Israeli society, Zoabi says: "My family provides me the strength to continue. Some openly tell me they're proud of what I'm doing, but I've also faced provocations and opposition. The benefits by far outweigh the costs, though, since the truth—living side-by-side with Israeli Jews, strengthening our connection to this country and its flag—will win out in the end."

"Everyone understands that the Jewish people have a historical right to this land. The entire world knows. No one denies there were people living here prior to the War for Independence, but continuing to dwell on it will only increase resentment. We cannot continue living off the sword. The state provides for those who were here before. Israeli Arabs now realize that the best thing for them is to connect with the State of Israel and its people," states Zoabi.

Asked about positions flouted by Arab MKs; positions that stand in stark contrast to those he, himself, espouses, Zoabi says: "They're wrong. They're fighting for their survival and doing so at the expense of clichés and incitement, by deepening the rift and separation within our society. They feed off attention." On the other hand, his own path, he acknowledges, is more difficult, more complex, and fails to draw the same type of attention from the media, making it harder for Zoabi to make his voice heard on a national level. "The easy thing to do," he says, "is to burn flags, block roads, ridicule other Arab Israelis doing national service duty, swear at IDF soldiers, and act as representatives of the PLO."

Does the fact that almost the entirety of the Arab Israeli sector supported the Joint Arab List in the elections indicate their hatred for Israel?

"The Arab street has bought into it because we have shown we lack interest in what happens here, and they have filled the void. If Jewish parties were to engage with the Arab sector, the Joint List would lose votes, but Jewish parties believe the risk is greater than the reward, and continue ignoring us."

Zoabi says he does not know whether he will pursue a future in politics. He believes that if he fails to do so, however, the Joint Arab List will be more than happy to fill the vacuum. "The establishment needs to appeal to the Arab sector in order to prevent the Joint List from having a monopoly on the Arab vote. We are far from losing hope though. I'd like to see our community moving towards integration and cooperation—not hostility."

Zoabi adds that he has not ruled out the option of creating a political party and says he has already received a number of interesting proposals over the past weeks. "I will think things over and decide on a path of action" he says, emphasizing that throughout his tenure in the public sector he has "never agreed to be photographed without the flag of Israel in the background." "I've always tried to hone new ties with Israeli Jews as well as the government and local establishment," points out Zoabi.

Are Israeli Arabs ready for a Zionist Arab party?

Zoabi says "they absolutely are." He presents statistics according to which about 40% of the sector never participates in the election process, while 58% support the Joint List and a relatively small amount back a variety of Jewish parties. "If we have a mass campaign led by ideologists who believe in what they preach, the Joint List will return to its natural place of 4-5 seats," he concludes.