Lightning rod MK Zoabi convicted of ‘disgracing public servant’ in deal

The plea bargain was endorsed by the court on Thursday, leading to the dropping of the most serious charge of incitement.

Hanin Zoabi
“My struggle is not against people, though the harm was to people,” controversial MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) told the Nazareth Magistrate’s Court on Thursday, pleading for a fine and no suspended sentence on her conviction for “insulting a public servant” in 2014 as part of a plea bargain.
The deal was endorsed by the court on Thursday, leading to the dropping of the most serious charge of incitement against her for telling a crowd of protesters that Israeli Arabs who work for government security forces “should be scared of us,” but led to her conviction for insulting a public servant.
Zoabi and the state prosecution disagreed on the punishment, with the state seeking a suspended jail sentence and Zoabi opposing, while agreeing to an NIS 3,000 fine and making an apology.
In addressing the court to persuade it not to give her a suspended sentence, Zoabi stated, “My lawyer told me to say that I agree with his arguments and I do agree with them, but I want to add a few words. I have stood by my position that I had no interest in insulting anyone personally.
“I did not confess in order to save time for the prosecution or for the court. I expressed that this was not my way because that is my own internal truth. I am a public representative and my way is through the political process.... I have nothing personal against any police officer or public servant and my struggle is not against people, though it is accurate that the harm was to people. Therefore, I retracted because this was not part of my world view,” she concluded.
Because of Zoabi’s status as an MK, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein had personally approved the deal.
The proposed charges for incitement and disgracing a public servant relate to comments she made at a protest during a July 6, 2014, hearing at a Nazareth court.
A Justice Ministry statement said Zoabi had called Israeli-Arab police officers “traitors,” implied threats against them and told a protesting crowd to spit in their faces.
In January, Balad said party lawyer Hassan Jabarin had told Weinstein he would be willing to hold an urgent hearing on the matter in order to persuade him not to indict Zoabi and that there was no legal basis for putting her on trial.
“The State Attorney’s Office does not usually put elected officials on trial for a spontaneous expression made in the heat of the moment in public political activity,” Jabarin said. “Therefore, if charges are pressed, the state will have to explain to the court why Zoabi is discriminated against, since in dozens of similar cases, including worse ones, not only was there no indictment, there was no investigation.”
However, with the reduced charge, Zoabi eventually decided cutting a deal was better than fighting on the issue of perceived discrimination.