Haneen Zoabi suspended from Knesset over Gaza flotilla

Balad MK can only vote, not participate in discussions; Zoabi: This was a right-wing, racist decision.

Zoabi 311 (channel 10) (photo credit: Channel 10)
Zoabi 311 (channel 10)
(photo credit: Channel 10)
The Knesset Ethics Committee punished MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) on Monday for participating in last year’s Gaza flotilla, forbidding her to take part in all Knesset discussions until the end of the summer session – a decision Zoabi called “the decision of an automatic right-wing, racist majority.”
Three MKs, Michael Ben-Ari (National Union), Danny Danon (Likud) and Orit Zuaretz (Kadima) filed complaints to the Ethics Committee about Zoabi’s participation in the May 2010 blockade-breaking flotilla, aboard the Mavi Marmara.
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“By participating in the flotilla, MK Zoabi severely damaged the Knesset and its members’ honor,” Danon wrote. “Zoabi not only behaved inappropriately for an MK, but in a way inappropriate for any Israeli citizen.”
Ben-Ari said Zoabi “took advantage of her parliamentary immunity” in order to “incite against IDF soldiers and the State of Israel” during a press conference following her participation in the flotilla.
Zuaretz also asked the committee to respond to Zoabi’s words in the press conference, where she said that “Israel kidnapped and murdered in cold blood.”
Zoabi told the committee that she rejected the complaints as “spiteful,” adding that she had participated in “legitimate political activities, which are the right of every citizen, and certainly of a Knesset member.
“I upheld my right to political activity and freedom of expression, and did not break the law,” she declared.
The Ethics Committee’s decision on the matter was delayed due to a police investigation into all Israeli citizens aboard the flotilla. On June 22, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein told the committee that his office had yet to make a decision, and the committee decided to discuss the matter.
The committee wrote that it viewed Zoabi’s participation in the flotilla as a “very severe” violation.
“Participating in the flotilla – intended to break Israel’s naval blockade on Gaza, which is part of the armed conflict between Israel and Hamas – is an action that harms the state’s security and is illegitimate for a Knesset member,” the committee wrote.
The committee also pointed out that this was the second time Zoabi had traveled abroad with funding from an outside source, without permission.
It was therefore punishing Zoabi for two ethics violations by forbidding her to participate in any plenum or committee discussions until the end of the summer session, which closes on August 7. She may enter meetings only to vote, and may attend meetings pertaining to her personally, such as Tuesday’s planned House Committee meeting to discuss her attack on a Knesset usher last week.
The committee also wrote that while an MK’s words in a political demonstration did not constitute a violation of ethics, Zoabi’s “actively taking part in harming the state’s security justifies a change in the committee’s policy, and an appropriate punishment.”
“This was not an Ethics Committee decision, it was the decision of an automatic racist, right-wing majority in this committee,” Zoabi said. “Therefore, it was a completely political decision.
“Who decides what is politically legitimate? The right-wing majority that makes up the government? A political majority? Then what is the meaning of my immunity, which is meant to protect me from the tyranny of the majority?” Zoabi asked.
“I upheld my human, moral and political obligation by participating in the struggle to break the illegitimate and inhumane blockade on Gaza,” she added.
Ethics Committee member MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) defended the committee’s decision, saying that “Haneen Zoabi is just the tip of the iceberg of the phenomenon in which Arab MKs exploit Israeli democracy. The Ethics Committee sent a clear message to MKs who work against the State of Israel and join forces with organizations that call for its destruction,” she added.
“You are shaming the Knesset,” she said, addressing Zoabi. “This is not the place for you.”