(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
An Arab Christian IDF officer accused Arab MKs of racism during a heated Knesset committee meeting Wednesday, and Balad MK Haneen Zoabi was thrown out of the session for implying a threat to him.
The exchange took place as the Knesset Labor, Health, and Welfare Committee was discussing a bill to give Christians separate representation on the Advisory Committee for Equal Opportunity in Employment.
“Arab rights don’t interest [coalition chairman] Yariv Levin (Likud Beytenu), who proposed the legislation],” MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) said.
“There isn’t an employment problem for Christians or Druse. It’s for the general Arab public. Levin wants to wickedly divide the Arab public, which is oppressed anyway.”
“We won’t be his indentured servants,” Zahalka declared.
Zoabi said the positive side of Levin’s proposal is that it “sharpens the identity issue for Arabs and the hostility of state institutions and MKs toward them.”
Christian IDF Officers Forum leader Lt. (res.) Shadi Halul said he is proud to be a Christian and that he wants and deserves to be recognized as such.
“Don’t listen to these racists,” he added, pointing at the Arab MKs.
“You speak for yourself,” Zahalke shouted. “You are an enemy of Christians!” MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) stood up for the Arab MKs, calling Halul rude.
Committee chairman Haim Katz (Likud Beytenu) ejected Zoabi from the meeting for implying Halul deserves violence, after she declared to him: “You are a coward! Go to the streets of Nazareth and Kafr Kana, say what you just said, and they’ll give you the response you deserve.”
The legislation in question would expand the advisory committee by giving the 160,000 Christians in Israel their own representative and adding another Druse member.
The panel would also have haredim, new immigrants, reservists, older people, and women.
Levin hopes to establish separate Christian representation in other government institutions as well.
“The purpose of the bill is to make the committee more varied, so that different populations will be represented and taken care of by this important body,” the Likud Beytenu MK said.
Equal Opportunity in Employment commissioner Tziona Kenig-Yair said she opposes the legislation, because she doesn’t think the Arab population needs to be divided up in the committee.