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Knesset reprimands Tibi for ‘martyrs' speech

March 6, 2012 02:06

Tibi says year-old speech was edited to make him look bad, says "Israeli ignorance connects martyrdom to terrorism."

The Knesset Ethics Committee reprimanded MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) on Monday for giving a speech in which he praised Palestinian “martyrs.”

MK Danny Danon (Likud) said the committee’s punishment was not strong enough, and that Tibi should be put in prison.

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“There is no greater source of praise” than martyrdom, Tibi is shown saying, in a video shot at a Palestinian Authority event honoring Palestinian “martyrs” that was released by NGO Palestinian Media Watch in January.

While the word “shaheed,” martyr in Arabic, means to die in the name of God, in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict it has come to be associated with suicide bombers and terrorists who are killed while attacking Israel.

Tibi, who is currently in the UK, wrote to the Ethics Committee that he gave the speech over a year ago, and that the video was edited to make him look bad.

“In the Israeli media, the word shaheed is used to mean a terrorist,” he said.

“A martyr is not a terrorist, but a victim who died for his land. That is who I praised.”

He also sent the committee a video of a speech at a more recent PA event, where he said that “Israeli ignorance connects martyrdom to terrorism.” Tibi added that he has always spoken out against attacks on civilians.

The Ethics Committee said that it is understandable that Israelis would think that Tibi is speaking out in praise of terrorism; however, in light of Tibi’s explanation and the second video, the committee understands that the word martyr has a different meaning for Palestinians.

At the same time, the committee said that in the future, it will not accept his “taking advantage” of words’ double meanings to “express himself severely and violently.”

Danon slammed the Ethics Committee decision.

“An MK who praises murderers and encourages terrorists should be suspended from the Knesset, put on trial for his extremist incitement and then put behind bars,” Danon said.

Only reprimanding Tibi legitimizes his behavior and that of others who hate Israel, the Likud MK added.

Tibi’s spokesman said that the Ethics Committee is a political, right-wing body that harasses him and all other Arab lawmakers. He called the decision biased, and rooted in ignorance of Arab language and culture.
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