TPS writer Alexander J. Apfel contributed to this article
The Knesset Ethics Committee made a controversial decision on the evening of Monday, February 8 regarding the controversial meetings by three Arab MKs with the families of terrorists who had committed attacks on Israeli civilians during the recent wave of terrorism.
Multiple complaints had been filed against the three MKs in question—Jamal Zahalka, Hanin Zoabi and Basel Ghattas of the Joint List party. The committee ruled that Zoabi and Ghattas would be banned from Knesset sessions and committees for four months while Zahalka would be banned for two months. The banned MKs will not be permitted to participate in votes in the Knesset and its committees.
The Joint List issued a statement following the decision saying that they “completely reject the decision. We condemn the incitement campaign led by Netanyahu which has resulted in this poor, unethical, and anti-democratic decision. We still demand the immediate release of the bodies held by the police even after this decision.”
The statement went on to say that the MKs have “paid a political price for a moral and humanitarian goal. This vengeful punishment will not deter us. We will continue fighting against policies of racism and fascism and in favor of real democracy and equality, which Netanyahu is desperately trying to destroy.”
The visit by the three MKs last Tuesday had caused a political outcry in Israel, which prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to file the complaint with the Ethics Committee.
Zahalka failed to show up to the committee meetings and was escorted out of a Knesset session earlier on Monday for repeatedly screaming at Prime Minister Netanyahu. Zahalka yelled, “Liar! Fascist! He lies over and over again!” following a speech given by Netanyahu in which Netanyahu said that he was “trying to imagine what would happen in the British parliament if MPs visited the family of Jihadi John.”
Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh previously attempted to justify the visits on humanitarian grounds. “The meeting last week was humanitarian and moral. The bodies [of the terrorists] must be released and buried immediately. We must also denounce the Israeli government, which is holding the bodies in freezers,” he said at a Joint List meeting.
Israel has temporarily held the bodies of terrorists in the past out of concern that funeral processions could lead to riots and violent protests. However, the bodies are set to be released shortly following a deal struck on Monday evening.