'We were very peaceful activists, but the IDF came to kill'

MK Hanin Zoabi talks to UNHRC Gaza flotilla probe, says "IDF viewed activists as terrorists."

September 1, 2010 03:49
2 minute read.
Balad MK Hanin Zoabi

hanin zoabi looking crazy 311. (photo credit: AP)


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MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) delivered no surprises Tuesday when she told a United Nations investigative panel in Amman that IDF soldiers sent to intercept the May 31 Gaza flotilla “came to kill.”

The MK was among the first witnesses to testify before the UN Human Rights Council-sponsored probe of the events, including the IDF’s raid of the Mavi Marmara ship that left nine Turkish nationals dead and 10 soldiers wounded.

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Zoabi, who was aboard the Mavi Marmara, was among the first seven people to testify before the probe, which is being boycotted by Israel. Israel has agreed, however, to collaborate with a separate UN panel led by former New Zealand’s prime minister Geoffrey Palmer and former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe that is examining the legal ramifications of the incident.

“It was evident from the beginning that the commandoes viewed all of us activists as terrorists,” Zoabi told the Associated Press after her testimony before a three-member UN team headed by Karl Hudson- Phillips, former judge of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

“Israel’s use of large numbers of elite troops with sophisticated weaponry showed it intended to kill the passengers,” added the lawmaker.

“We were very peaceful activists, but the commandos came to kill,” she said.

Zoabi had promised Monday that she would not pull punches in her testimony, saying that she planned to demand that the UN committee question Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief-of- General-Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi for “their personal responsibility for the criminal and pirate seizure of the Freedom Flotilla.”

Zoabi, meanwhile, received an unexpected boost from a group of politicians associated with the Labor Party. MK Eitan Cabel (Labor), former minister Ami Ayalon, Yeroham Mayor Amram Mitzna and political adviser Tal Zilberstein petitioned the High Court of Justice against the Knesset on Tuesday asking that the court overturn the Knesset’s decision to strip Zoabi of three of her parliamentary privileges.

The four argued that the majority of MKs’ disapproval regarding Zoabi’s beliefs was the basis for the Knesset vote.

In the petition, the four emphasized that they also found Zoabi’s statements upsetting and unpleasant, but stressed that their petition was filed out of concern for the freedom of expression of those holding unpopular opinions.

“As Israelis who dedicated their best years to defending Israel and the security of its residents, [we] are pained by Zoabi’s actions, but Haneen Zoabi and her infuriating opinions are not capable of threatening Israeli democracy,” the four wrote. “On the other hand, rescinding MK Zoabi’s rights because of her opinions does real harm to democracy.”

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