Israeli Opposition Leader Calls for Censorship of MK Zoabi's Speeches

'I would recommend that Knesset TV not broadcast her words as a matter of principle,' Zionist Union's Herzog. MK Freige: Herzog a 'useful idiot' for Netanyahu and the right.

MK Haneen Zoabi being removed from the podium at the Knesset, February 8, 2016.
MK Haneen Zoabi being removed from the podium at the Knesset, February 8, 2016. Emil Salman

Opposition head Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) called on Knesset TV on Thursday to stop broadcasting the speeches of MK Haneen Zoabi. Last week Zoabi, being assailed by MKs while at the Knesset podium, said the activists killed in the 2010 Israeli raid on a Turkish flotilla to Gaza had been “murdered.”

In an interview with Knesset TV, Herzog said he supports the initiative of his party member Eitan Cabel, who called on Knesset members to leave the chamber when Zoabi speaks in future sessions.

“I would recommend that Knesset TV not broadcast her words as a matter of principle,” said Herzog. “Zoabi has been trying to taunt the Knesset for years, trying to drive it out of its mind. I oppose any law for removing a sitting Knesset member, no matter who they are. Cabel’s proposal will suffice to put her in her place.”

Herzog said that boycotting her speeches would not be an impingement on her freedom of expression. “I respect Zoabi’s freedom of speech, as well as that of anyone else. This isn’t about freedom of expression, it’s a premeditated provocation. It’s meant to annoy and rattle the public.”

MK Esawi Freige (Meretz) sharply criticized Herzog’s preference for attacking Zoabi rather than right-wing Knesset members who had verbally assaulted her.

“MK Nava Boker (Likud), who transforms Knesset members into terrorists, apparently doesn’t bother Herzog,” said Freige, adding that Herzog isn’t disturbed that “Liebermann also wished to conduct ‘Nuremberg Trials’ for Arab Knesset members, calling leftist organizations ‘supporters of terror.’ But he does want to silence Zoabi. Herzog is no more than a useful idiot in the service of Netanyahu and the right, a useless person who instead of fighting for Israel’s democracy is joining Netanyahu, Lieberman and Bennett in the cabin of the D-9 bulldozer which is trying to demolish it.”

Last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he is working to advance Zoabi's expulsion from the Knesset. A bill to depose lawmakers who have expressed support of terror or racism, or who have voiced opposition to Israel's character as a Jewish and democratic state, is currently being advanced in the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.

Last month's incident wasn’t Zoabi's first controversy. As well as participating in the 2010 Gaza flotilla, which resulted in clashes with the IDF, Zoabi came under fire for suggesting in 2014 that the Palestinian kidnappers of three Israeli teens who were then murdered were not terrorists. At the time of Zoabi's comments, the fate of the three teens was not yet known. She was then suspended from addressing the Knesset plenum and committees for six months.

Last January, Zoabi was convicted of insulting a public servant for making offensive remarks to Arab policemen in a Nazareth courthouse in 2014.

In February, the Knesset suspended Zoabi, as well as fellow Joint List MKs Basel Ghattas and Jamal Zahalka, for their meeting with the families of slain Palestinian terrorists. The lawmakers were barred from attending the Knesset plenum, but were still able to vote