Ahead of the upcoming municipal elections, Israel's communist Hadash party voted in local faction primaries to elect the 25-year-old, secular, female Rim Hazan to the No. 2 spot in the party's Akko branch. The incumbent faction chairman, Ahmed Auda, was reelected to the party's No. 1 seat.
Hazan is a political science major at Haifa University and has been involved in politics from a young age. Her grandfather, Ramzi Houri, was one of the leaders of Rakah (the New Communist Party), the predecessor to Hadash. He served on the Akko city council for over three decades.
"I always work from the other side. Today I find myself in the center of things and that's a little strange for me," Hazan said. "I think that the Hadash faction decided to choose me because of their belief in me and also in order to have a young woman representative."
Hazan was born and grew up in Akko's old city and refers to herself as a Palestinian Arab communist. She is Christian, but prefers this not to be categorized as her religion, but rather as her family's traditional religious affiliation.
"I think religion is not a factor, although I respect men of the cloth. I didn't find answers in religion and I didn't find myself there," she explained.
'Israeli flag means nothing to me'
"I am running for office in order to fight for the rights of the oppressed Arab minority that does not get the rights afforded to Jews in the city. I'm fighting for our right to live in this city. There has been a plan for years to kick the Arabs out of Akko," she claimed.
"In recent years, this plan has fleshed out. To take the Arab residents out of Akko is to remove the authentic spirit of the city. It will lose its simplicity and beauty and even its dirt and will turn into nothing more than a tourist town," she added.
"There is, of course, also an ideological element. That's also part of the motivation that drives the state and the Zionist vision," she asserted.
When asked about her feelings on the Israeli flag, often a contentious issue between Arab and Jewish political representatives, Hazan responded: "The Israeli flag means nothing to me. During Memorial Day, I don't stand during the moment of silence because it means nothing to me. I do feel the pain of the mourning families."
"My flag is the red flag (of communism) and the Palestinian flag. I don't think someone in this state has the right to tell me to feel something about the Israeli flag."
Hazan doesn't think that her being a woman constitutes an obstacle to her being elected by Arab voters. "I think there will always be people who support women. And I think that people in the city will support me, although other parties might use the fact that my party is running a woman candidate against them."
The faction is very excited about its choice. "We'll do everything to assure that Hazan is elected to the city council and if I need to, I will give her my spot," said chairman Auda.