Balad MK Haneen Zoabi at the Knesset..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The High Court should reject Balad MK Haneen Zoabi’s petition against her six-month suspension from the legislature, Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon wrote on Thursday.
In July, the Knesset Ethics Committee suspended Zoabi from all parliamentary activities except voting, saying she incited to violence and terrorism, after receiving many complaints, including from Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.
In June, the MK said the kidnapping of Eyal Yifrah, Naftali Fraenkel and Gil-Ad Shaer, later found slain, was not terrorism – something Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein ruled did not constitute criminal incitement. She also expressed support for Hamas rocket attacks on Israel during Operation Protective Edge and, in an article for a Hamas website, wrote that Palestinians should put Israel under siege and not negotiate.
Zoabi filed an appeal against the decision, first to the Knesset, which was voted down, and then to the High Court, arguing that the Ethics Committee does not have the authority to sanction an MK for expressing a political opinion. Zoabi and her attorneys also said the six-month suspension – the longest ever imposed by the Ethics Committee – is not proportionate to other MKs’ punishments.
Yinon, however, told the High Court that the Ethics Committee does have the authority to sanction MKs for expressing unethical opinions, since those are not criminal offenses due to parliamentary immunity. The Knesset legal adviser explained that Zoabi’s statements violate MKs’ vow to be faithful to the State of Israel and its laws and work for the good of the country, even in a narrow interpretation of the words.
“The Ethics Committee’s consistent stance is to avoid limiting MKs’ political and ideological freedom of expression as much as possible,” Yinon wrote. “As such, over the years, the Ethics Committee rejected many complaints about MKs’ political expressions, including many against Zoabi herself. Still, the Ethics Committee thought that the exceptional character of the two statements in question and their timing justify harsh sanctions for MK Zoabi.”
The Balad MK has a long history of controversial activity both in and out of the Knesset, including participation in the 2010 Gaza flotilla aboard the Mavi Marmara, which was stopped by IDF commandos.
During Operation Protective Edge, she traveled to Qatar with other Balad MKs and met the party’s founder, former MK Azmi Bishara, who fled the country while being investigated for spying for Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War.
On Wednesday, she compared Israeli Border Police to Nazis for barring her entry to the Temple Mount.