Israeli Arab MK: Revoking My Parliamentary Privileges Is Political Persecution

Knesset voted to penalize MK Hanin Zuabi for participating in Gaza aid flotilla last year; High Court debates Zuabi's appeal.

Israeli Arab lawmaker Hanin Zuabi on Monday lashed out at the decision to revoke her parlimentary privileges over her participation in a Gaza-bound flotilla last year, calling it "political persecution."

Zuabi was speaking before the start of a High Court hearing on her petition to have her parliamentary privilieges returned.

The Knesset member was on the Mavi Marmara, the biggest vessel in a six-ship flotilla aiming to break Israel's blockade on the Gaza Strip, when it was boarded by Israeli commandos on May 31, 2010. The commandos were met with resistance from the ship's passengers, resulting clashes that left nine Turkish citizens dead.

Zuabi later testified before a United Nations panel probing the raid; Israeli media reports said that she told the panel the Israel Defense Forces commandos had intended to kill.

In the wake of Zuabi's participation in the flotilla, the Knesset voted to revoke three key privileges as Knesset member: her diplomatic passport, entitlement to financial assistance for legal assistance and the right to visit countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic ties. The move was aimed at making it more difficult for Zuabi to engage in similar acts of protest in the future.

Zuabi in turn petitioned the High Court of Justice in order to have her privileges returned. "The right-wing consensus in the Knesset is trying to punish me and prevent my freedom of expression," she said as she arrived at the court Monday.