(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Police probed Haneen Zoabi for incitement and insulting a public servant for five hours Monday, after the Balad MK had skipped her two previous police questioning dates.
Upon arrival at the Lahav 433 National Crime Unit headquarters in Lod, Zoabi was accosted by a small group of protesters, led by far-right activist Itamar Ben-Gvir, calling her a whore in Arabic, and a “terrorist, traitor, and enemy of the state.”
At the same time, MK Basel Ghattas (Balad), who led a small counter-protest with Balad leader MK Jamal Zahalka outside the police offices, said the investigation is “political” and that Zoabi “never meant to and never did insult a public servant, the video that the police is using as proof shows her expressing her opinion as is her job as [an] MK to do.”
The ongoing criminal investigation against Zoabi relates to a hearing at a Nazareth court in July in which, according to the Attorney- General’s Office, Zoabi called Israeli-Arab police officers traitors, implied threats against them and told a protesting crowd to spit in their faces.
Zoabi refused to appear on the first date set for questioning, because it was on the Id al-Fitr holiday, and the second because her lawyers said she was not given sufficient information about the allegations. After Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein spoke to her attorneys last week, she agreed to the probe.
After she was questioned, Zoabi said, “even though the investigation formally dealt with insulting a police prosecutor, it was a politically-motivated probe and therefore I see it as the continuation of the persecution that began with limiting my parliamentary privileges after I participated in the Gaza flotilla [in 2010] on the Marmara, the attempt to disqualify my participation in the most recent election and the Knesset’s decision during the war on Gaza to suspend my parliamentary activity for six months.”
According to Zoabi, the police’s “insistence” that she testify immediately and during a war, while no investigations were opened against those who threatened her, is suspicious.
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As for the allegations against her, Zoabi said she spoke in anger after hearing about “brutality” by the police against Arab minors, which outraged her, and that her words were not meant to insult a specific person.
Zoabi’s lawyer, Hassan Jabarin, called the law against insulting a public servant “anachronistic” and that police do not usually investigate elected officials for spontaneous speech in the heat of the moment during political activity.
Meanwhile, Knesset Interior Committee chairwoman Miri Regev (Likud) said Zoabi showed up “like a good girl” because she knew that if she did not, she would be brought in handcuffs.
“The time has come to send a message that MKs are not above the law, certainly not those who act and incite against the State of Israel and its soldiers,” Regev said. “Haneen Zoabi, your days in the Knesset are numbered, more than ever.”
MK Danny Danon (Likud) called for Zoabi to be banned from leaving the country to avoid a repeat of the case of former Balad MK Azmi Bishara, who fled Israel and resigned from the Knesset in 2007 when he was being investigated for ties with an enemy country.
“This disgrace, that a representative of Hamas sits in the Knesset, will come to an end when Haneen Zoabi is put behind bars,” Danon said.
The Balad MK was banned from all parliamentary activity except for voting for six months, as of two weeks ago, for incidents that Weinstein said are not criminal but may be unethical – expressing support for Hamas’s tactic of shooting rockets into Israel, calling for Palestinians to not negotiate with Israel and saying the kidnapping of three teenage boys in June was not an act of terrorism.
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