A ruckus broke out in the lobby of the Supreme Court on Monday when right wing activists Itamar Ben Gvir and Baruch Marzel hurled insults at Balad MK Haneen Zoabi as she came out of the courtroom where the judges debated the legality of a Knesset decision to strip her of some of her parliamentary rights.
“Go to Gadaffi! In any other country you would be in prison” yelled the activist as Zoabi attempted to make a statement to reporters. “You are a terrorist. Go away, this is a Jewish state. We don’t want you here,” they added.
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The High Court began deliberations on Monday of a case that is likely to be around for a while. Following the Knesset’s House Committee decision to strip Zoabi of privileges accompanying her status as a member of Knesset, including the revocation of her diplomatic passport, in August, because of her participation in the Free Gaza Flotilla last summer, Zoabi petitioned the High Court to order the decision illegal.
On Monday the judges, Justices Eliezer Rivlin, Uzi Vogelman and Salim
Joubran indicated that before they could reach a decision on the
particular matter, they would have to rule on the technical issue of
whether or not the Knesset House Committee even had the authority to
revoke the rights. Prior court rulings have not sufficiently answered
the questions and the judges hinted that it may require an expanded
Prior to the hearing Zoabi told reporters that the “Right Wing consensus
in the Knesset, that’s trying to punish me for my political positions
and activities, is sanctioning the continued racist incitement against
Arab MKs and the public they represent.”
Zoabi’s lawyers argued that the Knesset was not allowed to revoke the
rights of one of it’s members simply because they disagreed with her
opinions. They warned of a slippery slope in which the majority revokes
the rights of the minority just because they can and requested that the
High Court draw a clear line on the actions that a Knesset Committee was
allowed to take in punishing an individual MK.
“My colleagues’ position may lead to a situation where the majority
judges the minority for their opinions. If their opinion is accepted,
MKs will not only be able to say that an opinion is not to their liking,
but that it is unworthy of being heard and that it is punishable,” said
Dan Geva on behalf of Zoabi. “The Knesset may transform from a place
where a range of opinions is expressed to a place where only a single
opinion is heard.”
Dan Yakir, who represented the Association for Civil Rights in the case,
said that Zoabi’s words had been mischaracterized and that in her
participation in the Gaza flotilla, she had made no efforts to assist or
encourage terrorist organizations, but rather to conduct a genuine
protest on the Gaza blockade and provide humanitarian assistance to the
people of Gaza.
“Not only is there no truth to the claim that she knew there were
weapons aboard the ships, contrary to claims she had a hand in the
violence against the soldiers, she attempted to mediate between the
soldiers and the demonstrators,” said Yakir.
Knesset Legal Counsel Eyal Yinon, said that in its actions against
Zoabi, the Knesset tried to strike a balance between the rage which most
MKs felt at Zoabi’s actions and the severe act of revoking
parliamentary privileges. He said that compared to the initial request,
that called on the revocation of the privileges of six Arab MKs for them
having Libya last year, the current decision was worthy and balanced.
“I think we are still a great distance away from the Knesset posing a
danger to its MKS,” said Yinon. This is a symbolic gesture aimed to
discourage similar future actions.”
National Union MK Michael Ben Ari, the person who began the revocation
process asked to be added as a respondent to the petition. Following the
hearing, Ben Ari called Zoabi a terrorist and a spy and warned that she
would use her diplomatic passport to travel around the world and club
In an interview to Army Radio, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin expressed
disapproval of the idea that the court alter Knesset decisions but
warned MKs from giving the court reason to do so.
“I oppose Zoabi’s actions and think her boarding of the Mavi Marmara
requires a police investigation to see whether she didn’t break the law,
but I believe that this is not a decision for the Knesset or the
Knesset’s members to make,” said Rivlin.