Hanin Zuabi - Daniel Bar-On - July 2011
Hanin Zuabi Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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The Knesset Ethics Committee yesterday barred MK Hanin Zuabi (Balad ) from all plenum and committee sessions during the final two weeks of the Knesset's current session. Zuabi's sanction comes as punishment for her participation in last year's Turkish-sponsored flotilla to Gaza. Zuabi can still vote, but she will not be able to participate in the debates.

Also yesterday, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein informed the Knesset that the police had finished their criminal investigation into Zuabi's role in the flotilla and had transferred their findings to the prosecution for a decision on whether to indict her.

The Ethics Committee had deferred its own deliberations on Zuabi's case until the police probe was finished.

The Ethics Committee said it imposed the penalty because Zuabi "dealt a severe blow to the dignity of the Knesset and the public's trust in the Knesset" by joining a venture whose organizer, Turkish group IHH, has been declared a banned terrorist organization in Israel, and whose goal was to break a blockade the state had imposed for security reasons."

In so doing, the panel said, Zuabi had "overstepped legitimate protest activity by a Knesset member against government policy."

Nevertheless, the panel added, it had no evidence that Zuabi, who was aboard the Mavi Marmara, knew in advance of passengers' plans to attack the Israeli soldiers who intercepted the ship, nor was there any evidence that she participated in the violence or otherwise acted improperly during the interception.

Zuabi charged yesterday that she was being punished for her politics, and not because she had actually violated the Knesset's code of ethics.

"This isn't a decision by the Ethics Committee, it's a decision by this committee's automatic right-wing, racist majority," she said. "Who decides what is politically legitimate? The right-wing majority that comprises the government? The political majority? Then in what sense do I have substantive [parliamentary] immunity, whose purpose is precisely to protect me from the tyranny of the majority?"

This is the second time the Knesset has punished Zuabi for participating in the flotilla. A few months ago, it stripped her of her diplomatic passport and certain other parliamentary privileges to prevent her from participating in similar incidents in the future.

The Ethics Committee had received three complaints against Zuabi, from MKs Danny Danon (Likud ), Michael Ben Ari (National Union ) and Orit Zuaretz (Kadima ). Danon's accused her of "severely harming the Knesset's dignity" by participating in an event that resulted in injury to several Israeli soldiers. Zuaretz focused on the press conference Zuabi gave afterward in which she accused the state of "kidnapping and murdering people in cold blood."