Fireworks erupt at Knesset panel debate on Beduin

MK Zvulun Kalfa ends meeting after MK Jamal Zahalka calls him a "fascist racist" and refuses orders to leave room.

Jamal Zahalka (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Jamal Zahalka
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Interior Committee discussion on the establishment of new Jewish settlements in the Negev abruptly ended on Tuesday after Balad MK Jamal Zahalka threw insults at the chairman and refused to leave when requested to do so.
MK Zvulun Kalfa (Bayit Yehudi), who ran the meeting instead of MK Miri Regev (Likud), decided to end the session after Zahalka called him a “fascist racist” and refused his order to leave the room.
The discussion was requested by Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg and Hadash MK Dov Henin.
They were to discuss the establishment of five new Jewish settlements in the Negev between Beersheba and Dimona.
Zandberg argued that the new settlements might damage existing communities and harm the landscape and environment.
Einat Ganon, from the Ministry of Construction and Housing, said that no decision has yet been made but that they have located a few areas that will not harm the environment.
Zahalka raised the issue of the Prawer-Begin Beduin resettlement bill that is being debated by the same committee.
“The Jewish community leaders are fighting against the Arabs, telling them there is no country for you – no citizenship, you fascist racist,” shouted Zahalka.
“You are destroying the Beduin settlements from the map,” he said.
Kalfa ended the discussion and afterwards said, “MKs may not use their right to speak in a distorted and false way.”
“There is an honorable way to have a discussion in the Knesset committees and this is not the way,” he said.
The Prawer-Begin bill is a five-year economic development initiative seeking to regulate Beduin settlement in the South. It aims for a compromised solution for tens of thousands of Beduins currently scattered in unrecognized villages throughout the Negev, legalizing 63 percent of claimed land.
Beduin supporters oppose the bill because they say the legislation would result in up to 40,000 Beduins losing their land.
Opponents on the Right criticize the bill as being too generous, saying that the state is giving away land for free, land that the Beduin could not prove to be theirs in court.