Knesset Ethics C'tee bans Tibi from short speeches

Knesset C’tee punishes Tibi for foul language; Arab party says MK is being ‘personally oppressed’

By
February 7, 2012 13:45
3 minute read.

The Knesset Ethics Committee on Tuesday forbade MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL-Ta’al) from giving one-minute speeches for the next month, after he said in the plenum, in Arabic, that he “scorns” a previous Ethics Committee decision to suspend him from the Knesset for a week.

In response, Tibi’s party complained to Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin that the Ethics Committee was singling out the MK.

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Tibi was suspended three weeks ago following a speech in limerick-form about MK Anastasia Michaeli (Israel Beiteinu) that could be interpreted as sexist. It also included Arabic profanity.

The UAL-Ta’al MK used framework of one-minute plenum speeches, which take place every Tuesday afternoon, to criticize the Ethics Committee decision and explain his previous speech.

For example, he said, the word amok – which is the same in Hebrew and English – is different from emok, the Arabic term for “your mother” that is often used in insults.

At the time, Knesset Ethics Committee chairman Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) was presiding over the plenum meeting as part of his responsibilities as a deputy Knesset speaker.

Vaknin and Tibi argued about the speech, and the Shas MK asked that Tibi’s microphone be turned off.

On Tuesday, the Ethics Committee, in a session chaired by MK Arye Eldad (National Union) so that there would be no conflict of interest for Vaknin, decided that Tibi would not participate in any of the oneminute speeches in February.

The committee said it rejected Tibi’s “hair-splitting” about the meaning of the “obscene” language he used in the plenum, along with his ridicule of the Ethics Committee.

Because he “misappropriated the parliamentary tool” of one-minute speeches to disrespect the Knesset and its members, the committee explained, the MK will be forbidden from using that tool for the rest of the month.

In response, Tibi spokesman Ahmed Mohana called the committee a “right-wing tribunal that oppresses Tibi because of his speeches,” adding that Vaknin should have been suspended.

The decision was a clear violation of freedom of speech for MKs in the plenum and crossed a red line, Mohana said, adding that the panel could not fairly judge Arab MKs because Eldad called Tibi “the enemy” during the meeting.

Eldad refused to respond to the claim because Ethics Committee meetings are closed to the press.

“MK Tibi will continue to give his profound and sharp speeches without fear and without hesitation,” Mohana stated. “This is North Korean ethics.”

UAL-Ta’al sent a letter to Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, saying the Ethics Committee was leading a “witch hunt” against the MK.

Deputy Knesset Speaker Shlomo Molla (Kadima) and MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) requested that Rivlin dissolve the Ethics Committee and reestablish it because it was “biased.”

“We do not justify the behavior of those involved in this matter, but it seems that the Ethics Committee is silencing MKs that do not agree with the opinions of its members,” they wrote.

Committee member MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) defended the committee and its decision, telling The Jerusalem Post that Tibi was a “serial criminal when it comes to dirty language and had been punished appropriately.”

Later Tuesday, Tibi took the podium during a plenum discussion of the Knesset Economics Committee’s request to split a bill in two.

“There is one right that cannot be taken away from me, and that is the right to protest by remaining silent,” he said – at which point he stood silently in front of the microphone for a full minute.

Rivlin shot down the protestations of MKs in the plenum, saying Tibi had the right to express himself through silence.


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