Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin acceded on Wednesday to a request by Balad MK Haneen Zuabi, who had been on one of the Gaza-bound flotilla ships, and wished to make a personal statement.

Her statement followed a heated Knesset debate about the IDF flotilla raid.  The debate, which at times verged in a brawl, was brought to an end when Deputy Defense Minister, MK Matan Vilnai proposed that the debate be moved to the foreign affairs committee as it was "serving no useful purpose."

After the debate, Rivlin invited Zuabi to make her statement.

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The invitation to Zuabi, led to a breakout of fierce verbal altercations, resulting in the ejection of Kadima MK Eli Aflalo, Balad MK Jamal Zahalka and Israel Beiteinu MK Anastasia Michaeli.

Several more MKs were ejected during Zuabi's speech. Ironically some of the ejected MKs subsequently returned to the chamber, continuing to cause a commotion and receiving further verbal warnings from Rivlin.

Referring to the earlier debate, Zuabi said she was "astonished by the incitement and despised the words she had heard."

She said that she had agreed to participate in the flotilla as it was a "political human and moral 'mitzva' to oppose the imprisonment of 1.5 million people."

She described the blockade of Gaza as an "illegal, inhuman, illegitimate siege opposed by every politician who has a moral position... ...only the immoral support the blockade." 

Zuabi described the raid on the flotilla as a "pirate operation that was criminal and against international law."

She attacked the film of the raid that the IDF released: "Why does the Israeli government oppose an inquiry? Why does it oppose revealing the truth? Why did you take journalists' cameras? Why did you only publish the pictures linked to the IDF operation, Why didn't you publicize film of the ten men who died?."

She criticized those attacking her, saying "Who is the criminal?  Did I murder anyone?".

At this point an MK shouted "check if she has a knife" resulting in uproar.

Soon after this Knesset speaker Rivlin ended the debate, saying Zuabi had been given ample time to make her statement.
After the debate a bodyguard was detailed to protect Zuabi, both inside and outside the Knesset.


Speaking in the angry debate that took place prior to Zuabi's statement, MK Arieh Eldad (National Union) called Israeli Arabs "enemies of Israel", Kadima MK Yulia Shamalov Berkovitz said the Arab parties' Knesset members were "parliamentary spies".

Israel Beiteinu MK David Rotem said that "Arab MKs do not represent the Arab citizens, they represent terror organizations in Gaza."

Rotem went on to suggest that Arab Israelis "look up at the observation decks and see a model for behavior" they should emulate.  The observation deck was lined with Druze elders.

At the other end of the spectrum, MK Dov Henin (Hadash) said that the debate was "A low point in the history of the Knesset."

Henin went on to warn of the consequences of the blockade, saying, "Gaza will not go away even if you close your eyes."

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