Saeed al-Kharumi, Palestinian member of Israeli Knesset, dies at 49

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  August 25, 2021

Kharumi, a member of the United Arab List, had opposed the Israeli policy of demolishing Palestinian houses and communities in the Negev/Naqab.

Saeed al-Kharumi, a Knesset member and Palestinian citizen of Israel, died on Wednesday morning of a heart attack at the age of 49.

Kharumi was a member of Ra’am, the first Arab Palestinian party to take part in forming a coalition government in Israel’s history.

He was hospitalized in Soroka Medical Center in the Negev, south of Israel, where his death was announced in the early hours of Wednesday.

Ra’am, a Hebrew acronym of United Arab List, is the electoral branch of the Islamic Movement – Southern Branch, one of the political parties which represent Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up almost 20 percent of the country’s population.

Ra’am won five seats in the Knesset in the Israeli election in March, but Kharumi had abstained from endorsing the coalition government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

He opposed the Israeli policy of demolishing Palestinian houses and communities in the Negev.

He became a Knesset member in August 2017 when he replaced Abdullah Abu Marouf, a member of the Arab Joint List political alliance, following his resignation. 

Ra’am said in a statement that Kharumi “did great work throughout his life to advance the Arab society in the Negev”.

Representing Bedouins

Born in 1972 in Shaqib al-Salam, one of the unrecognized villages in the Negev, he studied physics and maths at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

In the early 2000s, Kharumi entered politics and was elected as a member of Shaqib al-Salam council before becoming its president from 2004 to 2008. He was also appointed as the secretary-general of the Ra’am party in 2002, and in 2014 he became the deputy chairman of Raam party.

Mansour Abbas, the chairman of Ra’am, said that on Wednesday that “we lost a man who did a lot for the Arab population, especially for the Bedouins in the south.

“[Kharumi] was a diligent Knesset member and did a lot in recent years. During his life, he served the residents of the Negev… He had political wisdom and flexibility… a man who knows the rights of our people and our society. May God have mercy on him,” Mansour said.

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog tweeted that he was in pain and shock after receiving the news of Kharumi’s death.

“I am in pain and in shock from the early passing of my friend Saeed Alkharumi,” Herzog tweeted.

“Throughout his career, Saeed was an enlightening and wise public servant who was an outstanding representative of the Bedouin community in the Negev,” he added.

Kharumi was serving as the chairman of the Knesset’s Interior and Environment Committee. He will be replaced by Iman al-Khatib, a member of Raam party. 

Kharumi has never married and left no children.