Mohammad Zoabi is a Muslim teenager from Nazareth who has taken to social media to voice strong support for Israel — a decision that's led to death threats from his fellow Arab Israelis and accusations that he is “delusional” from his notoriously hardline Palestinian Arab cousin, Knesset member Hanin Zoabi.
The self-proclaimed “proud” Israeli posted a video online this week in which he addressed those who kidnapped three Israeli teenagers Thursday night, exclaiming in Arabic, English and Hebrew: “To those terrorists who have kidnapped our kids ... bring them back, and you better bring them back now!”
“Tomorrow it could be me, you or any other Israeli. ... Our enemies don’t separate between Arabs and Jews living in Israel,” Zoabi said. “For them we are all one, for them we are all Israelis. ... and you know what? I’m proud about that. I’m an Israeli and I will remain an Israeli.”
“Israel is here to exist as a Jewish and a democratic country,” the high school student said.
With an Israeli flag in the background, the younger Zoabi took Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to task for cooperating with the Palestinian Authority.
“Wake up and stop cooperating with terrorists,” he said, calling the Palestinian Authority the “biggest” terrorist. “Our enemies do not separate between Arabs and Jews living in Israel.”
Zoabi concluded his statement proclaiming both in Hebrew and Arabic the famous phrase, "am Israel chai," meaning, “the nation of Israel lives.”
His video has been viewed more than 49,000 times on YouTube and was also featured on Israeli newscasts Monday evening.
Mohammad Zoabi’s video evoked harsh criticism from his cousin Hanin Zoabi, a radical left-wing politician and a leading figure who sailed with the 2010 Gaza flotilla in which pro-Palestinian activists tried to break Israel’s sea blockade of Gaza.
"I am happy to see that the Israeli hasbara [public diplomacy] is in such a dire state it needs a stupid boy with a twisted identity, who feels a continuous need to apologize to his strong masters," she told the Israeli news site Ynet of her younger cousin. "The Israeli desire to highlight this delusional case shows the state's need for legitimacy, even if it comes from a questionable direction."
Other insults against the teenager were posted on social media. Ynet reported that one Arabic comment described Mohammad as "mentally ill," while others threatened violence.
"I feel like strangling you," one commenter wrote, while another hoped Zoabi himself would be kidnapped, writing, "I wish that next time it would be you."
Member of Knesset Yariv Levin, the parliamentary coalition chairman, has asked Israel’s public security minister to take measures to protect the teenager, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Hanin Zoabi made waves on Tuesday when she appeared to justify the kidnapping of the Israeli teenagers, one of whom is a joint U.S.-Israeli citizen.
"They're people who don't see any way to change their reality and they are forced to use these means until Israel will wake up a little, until Israeli citizens and society will wake up and feel the suffering of the other," Zoabi said of the kidnappers in an interview to Radio Tel Aviv.
"So an Israeli MK [Member of Knesset] is openly justifying the kidnapping of Israeli boys?" the radio interviewer asked.
After the interviewer said, "I'm surprised you're still walking around freely," Zoabi hung up.
Numerous Israeli politicians blasted Hanin Zoabi and called her a traitor, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman saying she had encouraged kidnapping.
"Not only are the kidnappers terrorists, Hanin Zoabi is a terrorist too," Liberman said Tuesday, according to the Jerusalem Post.
"She who identified with terrorists on the [Gaza flotilla ship] Marmara, once again identifies with terrorists from Hamas who kidnapped our three boys. ... I am not surprised to hear her statement. How could a traitor like her blame [the kidnappers]? After all, she's from their milieu,” Knesset member Miri Regev said.
Regev said that Zoabi belongs in Gaza because "once a traitor, always a traitor."
The Jerusalem Post reported that Mohammad Zoabi this week wrote a letter to his supporters saying that he’s taking a break from social media and intends to keep a low profile after the death threats he received.
In interviews he has given in recent months, he said he feels like “a lucky Arab and a lucky human being” to have been born in Israel, especially in light of the wider regional violence.
Zoabi said that it is not easy being a Muslim Zionist. He told the Swedish website Perspektiv pa Israel (Perspective on Israel) in December that he has been called a traitor and a “Jew” for voicing his opinions.
He told the website he was perplexed by the word "Jew" being used as an insult, as he considers the Jewish people who emerged from the Holocaust to be “one of the smartest and strongest nations in the world.”
Zoabi supports Israeli Arab conscription in the Israel Defense Forces, a minority view among Israel’s Arab citizens and vowed to “stand with the Jewish people until the last day of my life.”
He said Arab schools in Israel engage in anti-Israel brainwashing. He recently switched to a a majority Jewish school and prefers what he described as a more tolerant curriculum.
“[T]he anti-Israel brainwashing that is being spread in the Israeli Arab schools is just so shameful. I am sick of all the negative brainwashing from the Arab schools,” he told the Swedish website. “We should not learn that this land is only for us Arabs. The land of Israel is for Jews and all the people who live in it but on one condition: We should not deny that this land is the state of the Jews, the state of Israel.”
Of his fellow students at his new school, Zoabi said, “All the people I have met here they look at me first of all as a human, secondly as an Israeli human. In the true Israeli open-minded society we accept everyone. ... We do not discriminate anyone because of their religion, backgrounds, their sexual preferences, their sex. We do not have that here in Israel. That is what make Israel so special in the Middle East because we got over this behavior of discrimination long time ago.”
Here is Zoabi's latest video decrying the kidnapping of three Jewish teenagers: