MK Haneen Zoabi at the High Court of Justice.
(photo credit: NOAM MOSKOVICH)
MK Haneen Zoabi (Joint List) and other lawmakers were reprimanded by the Knesset Ethics Committee for their behavior during a chaotic Knesset debate in June in which the firebrand legislator said IDF soldiers “murdered.”
The Ethics Committee received an unusually large amount of petitions in relation to the debate, which the panel described as “very severe, and at moments seemed like it could deteriorate into physical violence and undoubtedly harmed the dignity of the Knesset and its members.”
On June 29, in a discussion of the reconciliation agreement with Turkey, Zoabi demanded the government issue an apology both to the “political activists” aboard the Mavi Marmara, on which she sailed in solidarity, and to herself, from those who “incited against [her] for six years.”
In May 2010, a flotilla of six ships en route to Gaza was incepted by Shayetet 13 naval commandos who boarded and forced them to dock in Israel.
During the boarding, some armed passengers on the Mavi Marmara violently attacked the commandos and nine of the Turks were killed.
Zoabi said that the nine were “murdered,” which is why Israel agreed in its reconciliation with Turkey to pay their families.
Several MKs began shouting and moved toward the podium to complain. As MKs mobbed the stage, Zoabi shouted “they murdered” and “shut up” repeatedly.
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MK Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid), a former Jerusalem police chief, rushed at Zoabi, nearly reaching her before he was stopped by Knesset ushers.The committee severely reprimanded Zoabi, stopping short of punishing her. She has been suspended from the Knesset more than once.
Most Ethics Committee members said Zoabi’s statements are “extreme, provocative and not anchored in reality, and are at the very least on the border of political freedom of expression for MKs.”
In her defense, Zoabi pointed out that she did not say the words “IDF soldiers are murderers,” but the committee responded that it was clear she was accusing IDF soldiers of murder. They also said she misled Deputy Knesset Speaker Hamad Amar by saying she meant to apologize, and instead repeated her inflammatory remarks, making the incident even worse than it already was.
At the same time, the committee said MKs have broad freedom of expression.
Zoabi submitted complaints against several of the MKs who shouted at her.
MK Oren Hazan (Likud) received the worst response from the committee, a severe reprimand. He had shouted to Zoabi to “go to Gaza... you are the image of evil and hatred,” and “we will throw you out of here,” among other things that the committee said was inappropriate language meant to humiliate her.
MKs Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid), Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) and Hilik Bar (Zionist Union) received a warning from the committee, for gathering around Zoabi, in an apparent attempt to get her removed from the stand or stop her from speaking.
The committee also said Likud MK Nava Boker calling Zoabi “ugly in your soul” and a “bloodthirsty creature” was not legitimate, but because this was her first ethics offense, she only received a warning.
“The Ethics Committee called on MKs to show restraint and allow appropriate discussions in the plenum, even when extreme remarks are made,” they wrote. “As for getting threateningly close to the stage, the committee thinks that doing so has potential to turn violent and breaks the rules of behavior in the Knesset plenum.
“The committee wishes to warn the MKs that from now on it will consider serious sanctions in such cases, including suspension,” they added.
On Sunday, MK Anat Berko (Likud) proposed a bill that would not allow anyone who went to prison for terrorist-related crimes to run for the Knesset for at least 25 years after his or her release.
Berko said the bill was inspired by the case of MK Jamal Zahalka (Joint List), the head of Zoabi’s party, Balad, who went to prison for organizing for the PLO in the early 1970s, and ran for the Knesset in 2003.
“As surprising as it sounds, the law does not make any distinction between someone convicted of a regular crime and someone convicted of terrorism when it comes to the right to be elected to the Knesset,” Berko said. “On the one hand, the right to be elected is a basic right. On the other, society has a clear interest to mark the obvious wrong in an act of terrorism and publicly denounce those who commit it.”
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