carnegie logo

Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

« Previous | Babylon & Beyond Home | Next »

ISRAEL: Arab Israeli lawmaker could lose parliamentary privileges for being aboard Gaza flotilla


As Israel continues to assess the May 31 flotilla raid and its diplomatic backlash in public and behind closed government doors, its parliament continues to deal with one of its own -- Haneen Zoabi, an Arab member of the Israeli Knesset who was aboard the Mavi Marmara that led the flotilla of ships to Gaza.

Zoabi may have gotten off the ship physically unharmed, but her stormy voyage through public fury and rage in parliament were just beginning. Last week, a stormy session in parliament nearly turned into an unsightly brawl when lawmakers tried to remove her from the podium and others called her a traitor.

The next installment came Monday, when a parliamentary committee recommended that Zoabi lose several special privileges she enjoys as legislator, including a diplomatic passport (for a certain period), parliamentary coverage of legal bills and expedited travel out of the country, such as waiving the need for a special permit for travel to countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

The committee's recommendation requires parliament's approval but some members couldn't wait; they opened a bottle of wine.

Later on the radio, a furious Zoabi said: "What the committee did today was not deny my rights but the Arab members' already-restricted freedom of action." This was no political persecution, this was a political field trial in which the lawmakers were judges and executors, she went on, saying "they spilled my blood and called the public to harm me." Sarcastically, she said the toast was a "fine tribute to parliament and democracy."

But she'd do it all again, Zoabi said. Dismissing accusations that she violated a closed military zone order and took part in violent acts against Israeli soldiers, she said, "if anyone needs to stand trial, it is Israel," which is guilty of perpetrating an attack in forbidden territory. Any anger over endangering soldiers should be directed at the prime minister and defense minister who sent them there, she said.

Holding 1.5 million people under siege and claiming that that is the only way to attain security for Israel is a crime, Zoabi said, adding that when she opposes occupation and blockade, she is not only contributing to democracy but also to Israel's security. "My way does more for Israel's security than the army's," she said.

Lawmaker Michael Ben Ari staunchly defended the committee's decision. Asked if a toast was really in order, he told Israel Radio that "after the Jewish nation was humiliated by Haneen Zoabi and the Arab members of Knesset who collaborate with terror," then yes, a toast was certainly called for in salute "to the people of Israel and IDF [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers." Ben Ari described the committee's decision as "drawing a red line, pulling the brakes on Zoabi" and sending a message to other Arab lawmakers. Today was the first step in blocking the front-line terror outpost in parliament, said Ben Ari, who is considered a follower of Meir Kahane's ultra-nationalist teachings.

It must be "Kahane week" in parliament, said legislator Ahmad Tibi, referring to the assassinated leader of Kach, a movement banned from parliament for being racist and undemocratic and later outlawed altogether. "This is the most racist Knesset I have ever known."

The mood in parliament is extremely tense. "You're dead," read the fax received Monday by legislator Taleb A-Sana, who later said he was verbally assaulted by a stranger in the Knesset building. A-Sana accused "the fascist right" of poisoning the air and exploiting the crisis for political gain. Israel is facing a leadership crisis and is venting its frustration on its minorities, he said.

Police are still investigating Zoabi and a number of other Israeli citizens who were aboard the ships. When the police completes its investigation and passes the material on to the attorney general, he will decide whether to indict Zoabi or not. Upon indictment, the lawmaker would lose her parliamentary immunity.

-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem

Top: Michael Ben Ari, left, and Haneen Zoabi appear on Israeli TV in 2009. Even then the two first-time parliamentarians' beliefs were at odds -- and the gulf has widened in the wake of the deadly flotilla raid. Credit: YouTube

Comments () | Archives (5)

It seems that the "banned", racist, and murderous Kach party has taken over Israel. Zoabi will be lucky if she isn't murdered. I heard Meir Kahane speak on two occasions.
Truly a deranged, fanatic who loved justifying the murder of
innocents by the "chosen people". If Israel can't rein in it's growing numbers of religious fanatics it will not survive. American Jews need to make clear to the Israeli's
that they will not continue to support this increasing fanaticism. Boycott Israel!!!

Let's not fool ourselves and turn a blind eye to the real cause of all this havoc in the Middle East and in the whole world.The short -sighted step of creating the illegal state of Israel on the ruins of Plaestine and its innocent people in 1948 has led to the creation of terrorist groups who are ready to sacrifice their own bodies in a holy war against Israel and the countries that suport its apartheid regime.Since then, Israel has been the stem cell breeding all chaos and bloodshed in the whole area.Just before the creation of Israel, Palestine was a small peaceful country,though still under the British Mandate like Iraq and Jordan, while Syria and Lebanon were still under the French Mandate.Jerusalem was the capital city of Palestine,Haifa was its major seaport, and Lidda was its main airport (the largest airport in the ME then).The Palestinian Guinea was its official currency and it was equal in value to the Sterling Pound.There were tens of large cities and hundreds of villages in Palestine.Some well known cities were Jaffa (the major exporter of the well known Jafa oranges), Akka, Nazareth,Bethlehem,Safad,Ramalla, Ramleh, Bisan, Al Khalil, Nablus, Tulkarm, Askalan,Gaza,Tabariya besides Jerusalem.The leader of Palestine then was Amin Al Husseini with his government headquarters in Jerusalem.
All the above was removed from the world map in 1948 to be replaced by a new illegitimate state named Israel.The name of the country was changed from Palestine to Israel. The indigenous Palestinians were kicked out into refugee camps to be replaced with migrating Jews from Poland, Russia, Ethiopia ETC. This is the crime of the 20th Century that the British and the zionists had committed against innocent and helpless Palestinians hoping to fulfill the fairy tale of the Promised land.Unless this heinous crime is handled adequately and all Palestinian refugees return to their stolen land and belongings,I doubt that peace will ever prevail in the Middle East and,unfortunately, we will continue to fight ghosts that we call terrorists for many years to come.

And while we are discussing the nature of Israeli democracy, it's time to lay to rest the oft-repeated myth that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. What about Turkey? Last time I checked Turkey was a multi-party democracy.

Truly a brave woman to stand up against the Ethnic Cleansing that is going on in Palestine.

More US law makers need to join the Flotilla and stop writing blank checks that encourage the Holocast on the indigenous palestinian people.

US Citizens are waking up, Israel.

Ah yes, Israel(AKA "Eretz Yisrael" to the beloved settlers there), a true beacon of democracy for the world to see!


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...

Recent News
Introducing World Now |  September 23, 2011, 8:48 am »



About the Contributors