Rivlin calls on A-G to probe Zoabi video

Footage doesn’t show Balad MK in same frame as armed passengers.

BaladMKHaneenZoabi311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
(photo credit: Associated Press)
A video clip released on Wednesday reawakened the public and political furor over Balad MK Haneen Zoabi’s participation in the May 31 Gaza-bound flotilla.
Zoabi’s critics said the footage from the Mavi Marmara, which was revealed by Army Radio, proves that the freshman lawmaker was aware of the violent intentions of the ship’s passengers.
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However, the footage never clearly shows Zoabi in the same frame as an armed passenger.
The material was passed on to the office of Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) before Army Radio released the tape to the public. Rivlin determined that the tape should be passed on to the Attorney-General’s Office for review, as well to the Knesset’s Ethics Committee.
“The attorney-general must examine the new material and determine if there are grounds to investigate Haneen Zoabi for criminal offenses,” Rivlin explained. “The Knesset does not judge its members, and it is not my job to do so as the speaker. The evidence must be checked, and the attorney-general must determine if Zoabi was a participant in any crime. That has been my stance from the beginning, when this affair was exposed, and is certainly correct now, as well.”
Zoabi said on Wednesday that the video was released to further sully her name, and that she was not seen doing anything illegal on the brief tape.
The video, which was apparently filmed before, during and after the IDF’s boarding of the Gaza-bound ship on May 31, contains segments that show Zoabi at various stages of the incident.
Zoabi’s critics said the tape undermines her claim that there was no violent resistance aboard the ship, and that any injuries to IDF personnel were due to “selfdefense” by the passengers, who were “helpless” against the boarding party.
After repeated review of the 2 minutes and 39 seconds of the tape available to this paper, it appears that there is no moment in which Zoabi appears in the same frame as a person clearly bearing a weapon. The video – which is widely available on the Internet – has three separate and distinct “scenes.”
The first scene opens on a deck of the Mavi Marmara.
Activists – at least one bearing a pole for possible use against IDF soldiers – are seen milling about, preparing for the boarding. Passengers allegedly members of the radical Turkish IHH organization are seen wearing orange life vests, and are clearly opening packages of gas masks.
Toward the end of the brief scene, Zoabi is seen coming around a corner, and has not yet put on the life vest that she is seen wearing in the next scene. One man, walking toward Zoabi, was cited by at least one Israeli television station as carrying a weapon, but repeated examinations of the footage suggest that the split-second image merely showed a dangling strap.
The second scene was apparently filmed before or during the IDF’s boarding of the ship and the violent assault on Flotilla 13 soldiers.
The scene opens in a stairwell, where a number of men are seen apparently brandishing metal batons and other possible weapons. The camera then focuses on a bloodstain on the metal deck, and then on what appears to be a wounded activist.
A conversation is heard that begins in Arabic, and ends in English, with one of the speakers apparently Zoabi, who is seen on the staircase, alone, now wearing a life vest. The MK clearly checks her watch, and then realizes that she is being filmed, and pushes the camera away. In no frame of this scene is she filmed alongside the batonbrandishers.
The third – and by far the longest – scene takes place in a cabin in the ship, where Zoabi is seen clearly negotiating with IDF medical officials.
Zoabi tells the IDF men and an off-camera army doctor that the wounded people in the cabin “do not want to be taken to an Israeli hospital.”
One of the soldiers tells her that the patients are not stable and that “we need to take them to the hospital. That’s it.”
“I said that I was willing to translate for those people,” Zoabi told Channel 1 news on Wednesday. “They were people with pride. They didn’t want to be taken to a hospital by the people who send the army to attack them.
“We convinced them, for their health, that would be better for them” to go to the hospital, Zoabi added, deflecting claims that she had interfered with the IDF’s attempts to provide immediate medical care for those wounded during the boarding of the ship.
“There are two casualties who died between 5:30 and 6 [a.m.] who died there because they did not receive medical attention,” she said.
Zoabi complained that the video failed to show “hours when I calmed the spirits so that there would not be additional bloodshed.”
She said that “I hope that the attorney-general will get all the material, unedited, from the IDF. And that they will question me. If I committed a crime, I am willing to be tried.”
She accused “the IDF or the media” of “creating a situation in which two minutes are connected together.”
MK Miri Regev (Likud) said that “Zoabi is not only a traitor, but also a liar.”
Regev called for Zoabi’s parliamentary immunity to be immediately lifted and for her to be investigated for “harming national security while taking advantage of her status as an MK, as well as aiding the enemy.
“The State of Israel cannot and should not allow an MK to commit treason against the country and to brazenly lie in a clear attempt to harm national security,” Regev continued.
“Zoabi’s behavior is a clear violation of the rules and values of democracy in the State of Israel, and she must be tried.”
Regev’s comments were echoed by MKs from across the political spectrum, from Labor to the Right.
MK Ophir Akunis (Likud), a member of the Central Elections Committee, promised to work to disqualify both Zoabi and the Balad party from running for the next Knesset.
Rivlin said that he had accepted Zoabi’s request that the Knesset’s probe into the events of May 31 be accelerated in order to determine the truth.
“Personally, these images cause disgust, and in light of the pictures I cannot find an explanation with which I can remain satisfied,” the Knesset speaker continued. “But as the person who is charged with running the temple of Israeli democracy, I must allow her to bring her position up for clarification. Even when my soul is repulsed by the actions, as speaker I also serve those whose positions differ from mine.”