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The Knesset yesterday revoked several key rights enjoyed by Arab MK Hanin Zuabi (Balad ) as penalty for her participation in the aid flotilla to Gaza six weeks ago.

The bill, which was sponsored by MK Michael Ben Ari (National Union ) and which had received coalition backing, stipulated that Zuabi would be stripped of the following privileges normally accorded MKs: a diplomatic passport, entitlement to financial assistance should she require legal help and the right to visit countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations. The move was aimed at making it more difficult for Zuabi to engage in similar acts of protest in the future.

MK Yariv Levin (Likud ), chair of the Knesset House Committee, submitted the motion before the Knesset plenum. Turning to Zuabi, he said, "You have no place in the Israeli Knesset, you have no right to hold an Israeli identity card. You shame the citizens of Israel, the Knesset, the Arab community and at least a portion of your large family."

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud ) abstained from the vote, but expressed firm opposition to revoking Zuabi's entitlements. "I wasn't pleased with the actions of Hanin Zuabi, but that's her business. If she violated Israeli law, let the attorney general stand up, as he and only he has the right to lay charges. We are Knesset members, and we were elected based on our views.

"I believe in the right of every person to speak his or her mind, even if it pains me," Rivlin added.

Taking the podium, Zuabi said in response, "My name is Hanin Zuabi. I'm a liberal Palestinian woman and a Knesset member. I believe in the universal values of freedom, equality and justice."

Ben Ari interrupted her remarks by loudly accusing her of "terrorism," but Zuabi continued.

"I work for my values and my opinions," she said. "I have the prerogative and the obligation to fight for my beliefs and rights. My views are very different from those of Likud, Kadima and most Knesset members. That's why I don't represent Kadima, Labor or Likud, but those who elected me. In my case, I represent the consensus of Arab members of Knesset. I'm against occupation, blockade and oppression."

MK Anastassia Michaeli (Yisrael Beiteinu ) was removed from the plenum for waving a sign showing Zuabi's picture next to an Iranian passport. After the Balad lawmaker's speech, Michaeli gave her the placard to keep.