Rehavam Ze’evi .
(photo credit: COURTESY KNESSET)
Meretz MKs plan to propose a bill that will stop official state memorializing of Rehavam “Gandhi” Ze’evi, the tourism minister who was assassinated by Palestinian terrorists in 2001, because of a television report earlier this year accusing him of sexual assault.
The law mandates annual government memorial ceremonies for Ze’evi, including a special session of the Knesset, during which the prime minister speaks. Yediot Aharonot reported last week that the Prime Minister’s Office budgeted NIS 1.5 million for memorial activities next year.
Meretz MKs Zehava Gal-On, Michal Rozin and Tamar Zandberg proposed a bill to revoke the existing law, following the report of additional funding and an investigative report on Channel 2’s Uvda in April alleging that Ze’evi sexually assaulted several women.
The report, which included testimony from some of his accusers, also asserted that Ze’evi committed war crimes, including shooting at civilians and defiling enemy bodies, sparked controversy as to the appropriateness of airing the allegations 15 years after the firebrand right-wing minister was murdered.
Gal-On expressed outrage that, after the Uvda report, the PMO did not change its budget policy for memorializing Ze’evi. She also pointed out that much of the funds went to the West Bank.
“We must put an end to the farce in which massive funds, that Herzl and Jabotinsky could only dream of, are used to memorialize a person against whom there are shocking allegations of sexual violence, defiling corpses and endangering the lives of soldiers. Government funds should be invested proportionately and morally and not profligately and with nepotism,” Gal-On said.
The Meretz bill also refers to Ze’evi’s political opinions as reason to cancel the memorialization law.
“It is enough that Rehavam Ze’evi was the politician who led the idea of ‘transfer,’ willing or not, of Israeli Arab citizens in the 1990s, to cancel the commemoration of his legacy, which was racist and dangerous,” the bill’s explanatory section reads.
The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel backed the Meretz bill, with its director Orit Soliciano saying: “Until the law is revoked, all funding of commemorating his legacy must be frozen immediately.
“The testimony heard in the report about serious crimes allegedly committed by Rehavam Ze’evi cannot be ignored.
The public must not participate in any memorial initiative...
Memorializing Gandhi means legitimizing the terrible acts associated with him and ignoring his victims.”
Former National Union MK Arye Eldad, who proposed the Rehavam Ze’evi Memorial Law, declined to comment, as did Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, who entered the Knesset in Ze’evi’s stead and is now the head of the National Union Party.
Coincidentally this week, Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh met with Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine secretary-general Ahmed Sa’adat, who planned Ze’evi’s assassination, according to a report on the conservative online magazine Mida, and has met with Sa’adat several times in the past.
Though Mida said Odeh’s office and party confirmed the visit, the MK’s spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post that Odeh only visited Sa’adat once, last year.
Sa’adat has been in Israeli prisons since 2006. He was sentenced to 30 years for heading an illegal terrorist organization and for actions carried out by the PFLP, including Ze’evi’s murder.
The platform for Hadash, the political party that Odeh leads within the Joint List, calls for the release of all Palestinian “political prisoners.”
In response to the report, MK Anat Berko (Likud) wrote on twitter: “It’s not clear to me why people are surprised Odeh met with Ahmed Sa’adat, who planned Gandhi’s murder. [Odeh] already exposed the motivation for his activities in the Knesset.”
Berko shared a video clip of Odeh speaking in the Knesset, in which he said: “I am not only a son of the Palestinian nation, I am so proud of this nation. The nation deserves everything good, but I am especially proud, because it is hurting you [Israelis].”