MK Hanin Zuabi
MK Hanin Zuabi at a Knesset hearing on her parliamentary privileges on July 13, 2010. Photo by Knesset Channel
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A fake Iranian passport featuring MK Hanin Zuabi Photo by Reproduction

The Knesset on Tuesday voted to revoke three parliamentary privileges from Arab MK Hanin Zuabi (Balad) due to her participation in the aid flotilla that sailed to Gaza in late May.

Thirty-four lawmakers voted in favor of stripping Zuabi's privileges and 16 voted against, after a heated debate, in which Zuabi accused her fellow lawmakers of punishing her out of vengeance.

Zuabi responded to the Knesset vote by saying, "It's not surprising that a country that strips the fundamental rights of its Arab citizens would revoke the privileges of a Knesset member who loyally represents her electorate."

Zuabi went on to say that the vote represents a dangerous precedent with regard to Israel's Arab citizens and is a hostile message toward her. She went on to accuse Israeli parliamentarians of implementing racist laws in order to repress their Arab counterparts.

"In a civilized country, the people who incite against and threaten MK Zuabi would be punished and have sanctions imposed against them," the lawmaker said.

Zuabi said she will seek legal and international aid in order to "rein in the vengeful tendencies of the automatic majority in the Knesset."

The Knesset's House Committee last week recommended revoking Zuabi's privileges after she participated in the Gaza-bound aid flotilla, which resulted in an IDF raid that killed nine activists.

"You are punishing me out of vengeance," Zuabi told fellow parliamentarians during the hearing. "When you threaten the Arab MKs and the Arabs' protectors, you threaten democracy and co-existence between Jews and Arabs."

"I have the right and the duty to fight for my rights and my values," she continued, adding that "my positions are often different from those of the Likud, Kadima and most of the MKs. That’s why I don’t represent Kadima, the Labor Party or the Likud, but those who voted for me and in my case I represent the consensus of the Arab MKs."

"You have no freedom of choice with regards to the rules of democracy," Zuabi added. "There are fixed rules that do not change at whim. You do not need to protect democracy, but to protect me for democracy's sake."

Last week the Knesset committee recommended rescinding from Zuabi three key privileges, one of which is the privilege to exit the country – meant to prevent Zoabi from fleeing Israel if she commits a felony or has debts in Israel.

Another privilege to be rescinded is carrying a diplomatic passport, which according to the Knesset's legal adviser, is a privilege that does not grant diplomatic immunity so revoking it would not make it more difficult for Zuabi to fulfill her duties.

The third privilege is the right to have the Knesset cover litigation fees of an MK if he or she faces trial.

MK Yariv Levin (Likud), chairman of the Knesset committee that decided on rescinding her privileges, told Zuabi that she doesn’t belong in the Knesset.

"You have no place in the Israeli Knesset, you are unworthy of holding an Israeli ID and you embarrass the citizens of Israel, the Knesset, the Arab population and your family," he said.

Meanwhile, MK Anastassia Michaeli (Yisrael Beiteinu) was escorted out of the hall after she handed Zuabi a lookalike Iranian passport with a photograph of her in it, saying that it will serve her on her diplomatic incitement trips.

"In every civilized country, a member of parliament who crosses the red line and identifies with the enemy and arming the enemy with weapons of mass destruction aimed at destroying his country's national foundations will not find in his pocket a diplomatic passport of the country he aims to destroy," Michaeli said.

"Ms. Zuabi, I take your loyalty to Iran seriously and I suggest you contact [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad and ask him to give you an Iranian diplomatic passport that will assist you with all your diplomatic incitement tours, because your Israeli passport will be revoked this evening," she added and proceeded to hand Zuabi a lookalike Iranian passport that she had produced for her.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) interrupted Levin and said that the Knesset plenum was not the platform to express his personal feelings but rather the committee's decision.

Rivlin said: "I was not happy with Hanin Zuabi's actions, but if she broke an Israeli law may the Attorney General, who was solely and unequivocally given the power to decide, rise and press charges against her."

"We, as Knesset members, were chosen due to our beliefs. Today it is in our favor, and tomorrow it might not be; there is a complex ideological struggle between what was once left and right," Rivlin said, adding, "I believe that everyone should have the right to speak their minds, even if what they say hurts me."

The House Committee decision to recommend the rescinding of Zuabi's privileges was passed by a majority of seven to one, with MK Ilan Gilon of Meretz opposing.

The Balad party condemned the Knesset committee decision calling it "racist and anti-democratic."

 "The MKs who incite against Zuabi spill her blood – they are calling on the public to harm her and following their decision, her life will be threatened," Balad said in a statement.  "These MKs will be responsible for any harm that may be caused to her."