Inciteful Arab MK Banned from Knesset Six Months

July 30, 2014

4 min read

Balad MK Hanin Zoabi has been banned from the Knesset for six months following appeals from many quarters demanding her removal for inciteful comments made recently against Israel.

The ban, which will go into effect Wednesday, will still allow her to vote, but not participate in any other parliamentary process, such as making speeches, submitting questions or initiating debates.

Zoabi has long been in the spotlight for her controversial behavior.  As an elected representative within Israel’s government, she has made many enemies for calling on Arabs to take up arms against her country and for supporting terrorists.

Many people have called for her removal from Knesset, and in fact, she has been banned before.  The previous ban lasted two months in 2011, after she attacked an usher attempting to escort her out of Knesset for repeatedly interrupting the Prime Minister.

(Photo: IDF)

Zoabi participated in the 2010 Gaza flotilla, travelling aboard the Mavi Marmara against Israel’s blockade.  In June, she expressed sympathy for the kidnappers and killers of Israeli teens Gilad Shaer, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrah, saying their captors were not terrorists, but “have seen no other way to change their reality and they have to resort to these measures.”  She went on to question whether the kidnapping even took place.

These comments, and the public’s reaction, prompted the police to request an investigation be opened against her.  In July, she went so far as to publish an article on Hamas’s website, encouraging all Arabs to take up arms against Israel instead of negotiating a peace settlement.

The Knesset Ethics Committee ordered the ban in light of complaints from Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and others.  Although Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein decided Zoabi’s words did not amount legally to incitement, Edelstein described her words as “bordering on incitement, encouraging violence and supporting terrorism.

“I know the committee consistently defends freedom of expression for MKs in general and specifically for those who represent minorities, and as Knesset Speaker, I think this is the right and appropriate policy. Still, I think that MK Zoabi crossed the line long ago when it comes to appropriate behavior for a lawmaker,” Edelstein wrote. “The many complaints I received show this is not a ‘usual’ case of harsh or outrageous statements that happen from time to time in the Knesset, but continued provocative behavior that erodes the Knesset’s status.”

“That is why I think the Ethics Committee should use its authority in a way that will send a message to MK Zoabi and the wider public that although freedom of political expression is a basic right, they cannot support terrorist organizations and encourage acts of terrorism,” he concluded.


Zoabi responded to Edelstein’s accusations before the committee. “I admit that my political and parliamentary activity, like my declarations and opinions, represent political opinions and values that completely contradict those reflected in the complaints,” she said.

“I represent a vision of justice, freedom, equality and an uncompromising battle against racism, oppression, discrimination, dispossession and disenfranchisement…I will not give in to those who are trying to silence me, punish me and take revenge on me.”

In its decision, the Ethics Committee explained that it was loathe to limit the freedom of expression of anyone, especially an MK.  However, it cited a difference between legitimate criticism of Israel and encouragement of Israel’s enemies.

“The public in Israel, like in any country, expects that the members of its parliament, who declare allegiance to the state, will not encourage those who attack it and want to kill its soldiers and citizens,” the Ethics Committee decision reads. “Criticism of the government [by an MK], harsh as it may be, should be made from the point of view of someone who wants the good of the country and its citizens and wants to influence policy.”

Zoabi’s comments, and their timing, the committee decided, violate her oath as an MK and harm the Knesset.  It handed down the harshest punishment in its arsenal: a six-month ban.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (Photo: Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (Photo: Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

For many, this is not enough.  89 percent of Jewish Israelis polled want to see Zoabi stripped of her Israeli citizenship, with only 10 percent actually opposed.  Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) is among those in favor.  “The Knesset did something symbolic today, but as long as she continues to get a salary from Israel and be an MK, the fiasco continues. The right thing to do is have her dismissed from the Knesset,” she said.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (Israel Beiteinu) said, “It is not enough to suspend Zoabi from Knesset debates for six months – she should be sent away from Israel to Qatar, and join the traitor from her party who already ran there, Azmi Bishara.”  Bishara was investigated for ties to Israel’s enemies.  He resigned from Knesset and fled the country in 2007.

Knesset Interior Committee chairwoman Miri Regev (Likud) said, “there is no doubt Zoabi will go underground together with Hamas leaders and I will succeed in getting her [parliamentary] immunity revoked. Zoabi’s removal from the Knesset is closer than ever. There is no room for traitors in the Knesset.”

Knesset Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women chairwoman Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) expressed her dissatisfaction: “Zoabi consistently supports our enemies and harming Israeli security,” Lavie stated. “MK Zoabi’s behavior raises a serious suspicion that she crossed a clear redline at which point she can no longer be an MK.”  Lavie said Zoabi was a representative of Hamas and did not belong in Israeli parliament.

MK Issawi Freij (Meretz), however, accused the Ethics Committee of having a double-standard.

“The Ethics Committee is quick to punish MK Zoabi but not MKs and ministers who incite against and call to boycott Arabs…who get a weak censure,” Freij said. “Freedom of speech is a right that cannot be violated, except in the most extreme cases, especially when it’s an MK.”

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