Zoabi asks High Court to strike down Knesset ban against her

Balad file petition against six-month ban from Knesset, calling it a violation of her free speech.

October 7, 2014 14:56
2 minute read.
Hanin Zoabi



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MK Haneen Zoabi on Tuesday filed a petition with the High Court of Justice to strike down a six-month Knesset ban placed on her from all parliamentary activity other than voting, calling it a violation of her free speech rights.

At the end of July the Balad MK was banned following a Knesset Ethics Committee ruling on complaints of incitement by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and other lawmakers.

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Zoabi’s punishment, the maximum the committee can give, means she was banned from making speeches, submitting parliamentary questions or initiating debates in committees or the plenum.

The committee received many complaints about Zoabi in recent weeks regarding her statement that the June kidnapping of Eyal Yifrah, Naftali Fraenkel and Gil-Ad Shaer, later found slain, was not terrorism – something Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein decided was not criminal incitement – and her implied support for Hamas rocket attacks on Israel during Operation Protective Edge.

In her petition, Zoabi cited Weinstein’s decision that her conduct had not been criminal as proof that it was within the boundaries of her free speech rights as a Knesset member.

She said she had explained her statement of not wanting to use the phraseology of “terrorists,” even though she opposes violence against civilians, because she believes that terminology slants the overall debate too far in favor of Israel.

Zoabi slammed the committee for discrimination since, she said it had not sanctioned Knesset members like Yaakov Katz, Michael Ben-Ari, Eli Aflalo, Yulia Shamolov Berkovich and Arieh Eldad for what she called statements of incitement, such as Eldad allegedly saying about former prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert that whoever withdraws from sovereign land “has a judgment of death.”

A July Knesset Channel poll found that 89 percent of Jewish Israelis think Zoabi’s citizenship should be revoked, while 10% oppose such a move.

The Balad MK has a long history of controversial activity in and out of the Knesset, including participation in the 2010 Gaza flotilla on the infamous MV Mavi Marmara, which was stopped by IDF commandos.

In 2011, the Ethics Committee banned her from the Knesset for two months after she physically attacked an usher who tried to remove her from the plenum for incessantly interrupting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had referred to her in his speech.

In his complaint, Edelstein told the panel that many citizens had appealed to him to take action against Zoabi because of “her statements bordering on incitement, encouraging violence and supporting terrorism.”

The Knesset speaker specifically mentioned an article Zoabi published on a Hamas website in which she encouraged Palestinians to take part in “popular resistance” and called to “put Israel under siege instead of negotiating.”

He also quoted Zoabi’s statements in a radio interview following the kidnapping of the three teenagers: “[The kidnappers] are not terrorists.”

Lahav Harkov contributed to this story.

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