MK Michaeli censured for 'physically disturbing' Zoabi

Ethics committee rebukes Kadima’s Plesner for telling Balad MK ‘no man would touch you’ in post-flotilla session.

Zoabi 311 (channel 10) (photo credit: Channel 10)
Zoabi 311 (channel 10)
(photo credit: Channel 10)
MK Anastasia Michaeli (Israel Beiteinu) was reprimanded by the Knesset Ethics Committee on Tuesday for “attempting to physically disturb” MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) in a special Knesset meeting following last year’s Gaza flotilla incident.
Zoabi also complained to the committee about nine other MKs for comments made during the same discussion.
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Two days after IDF-commando soldiers boarded the Mavi Marmara last summer, the Knesset held a discussion titled “The Gaza Flotilla and Israel’s response.”
Zoabi, who was aboard the Marmara at the time of the incident, was permitted to convey a personal message.
Zoabi told the Ethics Committee that, as she spoke, Michaeli “wildly approached the stand and raised her hand towards me in a threatening gesture, trying to prevent me from speaking. If a Knesset usher hadn’t intervened, I would have been physically harmed.”
In her defense, Michaeli said: “I do not deny that I took the stand in order to make my words heard, because the other microphones in the room were turned off.”
The Ethics Committee severely censured the Israel Beiteinu MK, explaining that Zoabi’s complaint is backed up with photographs from the plenum, which show Michaeli attempting to take the stand while Zoabi still stood there.
“The committee could not find a precedent in which an MK attempts to physically disturb another MK’s speech by taking the stand without permission,” an Ethics Committee statement reads. “A line was crossed that cannot be ignored.”
The committee also rebuked MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima) for making “insulting and harmful comments that are not connected to political stances and public life, but rather an MK’s personal life.”
During Zoabi’s speech, Plesner said: “I only hope that you go to Gaza for a week and see what happens to you, a single 38-year-old woman.”
He also told Zoabi: “Don’t worry, just like no man would touch you, we will not touch you either.”
The comments were stricken from the Knesset protocol; however, they were published in the media, and Plesner did not deny saying them.
Plesner said that he has freedom of speech in the plenum, and his words “were meant to demonstrate the complainant’s hypocrisy, in which she used liberal values like freedom of speech, demonstration and women’s rights in order to encourage delegitimization [of Israel] and promote the Hamas regime that has declared war against these values.”
He added that he made his second comment during a different part of the discussion, and did not mean to personally hurt Zoabi.
“That is not the way I use my job as an elected official, and it is unfortunate that my words were interpreted so personally. Although I stand behind my words, if I was given a second chance, I would have chosen to relay my message in a different way that would not be seen as a personal insult,” Plesner explained.
The Ethics Committee also discussed Zoabi’s complaints about Kadima MKs Eli Aflalo, Yulia Shamalov- Berkovich, Yoel Hasson and Yisrael Hasson, as well as MK Miri Regev (Likud) and MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) for calling her names like “murderer,” “terrorist,” “traitor,” “collaborator” and “enemy.”
In addition, MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen (Likud), then serving as deputy Knesset speaker, said: “If it depended on me, she wouldn’t speak, but she has the right according to the [Knesset] regulations.”
The seven MKs were not punished by the Ethics Committee, which said that they have freedom of speech as part of their parliamentary duties.
Last month, the Ethics Committee suspended Zoabi from Knesset discussions for taking part in last year’s Gaza flotilla.