Ethics C'tee: MKs allowed to rally against ‘occupation’

Panel rejects complaint against MKs Zoabi, Zahalka for waving Palestinian flags and calling for Egypt-like revolutions against Israel.

Zoabi 311 (channel 10) (photo credit: Channel 10)
Zoabi 311 (channel 10)
(photo credit: Channel 10)
The Knesset Ethics Committee decided on Tuesday not to punish Balad MKs Haneen Zoabi and Jamal Zahalka for waving Palestinian flags at a demonstration and calling to “end the occupation.”
The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel petitioned the Ethics Committee, which is headed by MK Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas), in February, saying that the Arab MKs engaged in criminal behavior at a rally in support of the demonstrations in Egypt.
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“They waved PLO flags, or as they call it ‘Palestinian flags,’ and called for a revolution against the Israeli ‘occupation’ and the formation of a Palestinian state, which is a crime,” the Legal Forum wrote.
According to the complaint, Zoabi “called for an end to the Israeli occupation through a revolution similar to that in Egypt,” thus “harming and undermining the government and society.”
The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel said that Zoabi’s words constituted sedition and incitement.
“This is not the first time these MKs took part in anti-Israel activity and calls to undermine Israel’s foundations as a Jewish and democratic state,” the complaint read.
The organization also claimed that Zoabi and Zahalka violated the Knesset’s ethical code, which calls for members to behave in a way that respects the Knesset and its obligations and to avoid abusing parliamentary immunity and rights as an MK.
Zoabi and Zahalka said that the complaint is “spiteful and based on false claims.”
In a written response, the Balad MKs said that the complaint’s legal claims are weak, and by participating in the demonstration, they are fulfilling their obligations and their right to political activity.
The ethics committee decided, in a closed-door meeting, not to take action against Zoabi and Zahalka.
“The complaint deals with Knesset members’ remarks and organizing and participating in demonstrations, actions which are at the heart of parliamentary and public activity,” the committee wrote.
“In light of the importance of MKs’ freedom of expression and the need to defend their right to express their views without fear, even when those views are difficult and outrageous, the committee decided to reject the complaint.”
Last May, Zoabi and Zahalka faced a failed attempt to strip them of their parliamentary immunity and lawmakers’ calls to prosecute them and four other MKs that visited Libya.
In July 2010, the Knesset House Committee imposed sanctions on Zoabi after she sailed on the Mavi Marmara as part of the Gaza flotilla.
Former ethics committee chairwoman MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) refused to discuss Zoabi’s participation in the Mavi Marmara incident in the committee. Yacimovich resigned as committee chairwoman after announcing her candidacy for leadership of the Labor Party.
Ethics committee members MK Arye Eldad (National Union), MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) and MK Rachel Adato (Kadima) boycotted its meetings, stopping most of the committee’s activities.