MK Zoabi Suspended From Knesset Plenum for Excusing West Bank Kidnap

Arab lawmaker said she doesn't view kidnappers of three Jewish teenagers as terrorists; Zoabi responds to decision: Move political and anti-democratic, and she plans to appeal to Supreme Court.

Knesset Member Haneen Zoabi attending a rally in Haifa against the Israeli military operation in Gaza, July 18, 2014, surrounded by police.
Rami Shllush

MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) has been suspended from addressing the Knesset plenum and committees for six months due to comments including last month’s assertion that the kidnappers of three Jewish teens in the West Bank were not terrorists.

According to the ruling Tuesday by the Knesset Ethics Committee, Zoabi, an Israeli Arab, may vote but may not address her colleagues. Zoabi said she would appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, calling the ruling “political” and motivated by “vindictiveness.”

She described an “anti-democratic decision of the tyrannical majority to silence the voice and opinion of the minority.” She said the ruling was made in a “fiery atmosphere of war and expresses a vengeful, fascist approach. The only connection between [the decision], ethics and the Knesset Ethics Committee is that it is an immoral and anti-ethical decision.”

Zoabi also described the decision as “punishment.” While she “opposes war and killing,” the committee ignores “MKs like [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman who have called for me to be killed, and the calls of many MKs who have called for the killing of Palestinians.”

The decision came after Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri said the police would not investigate Zoabi for incitement.

On June 18, Zoabi told Radio Tel Aviv: “Even if I don’t agree with them, they are people who don’t see any way to change their reality and are forced to use these means until Israel sobers up a bit.” It was later learned that the kidnappers had killed the teenagers. The suspects are still at large.

A six-month suspension is the maximum penalty that can be imposed on an MK, and this was the first time it has been employed. Because the Knesset begins a three-month summer recess next week, Zoabi will be barred from taking part in the upcoming winter session.

Nizri said that after examining Zoabi’s statements, the attorney general’s office found that while the MK had said she did not see the kidnappers as terrorists, she also expressed reservations about the abduction.

Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein had submitted the primary complaint against Zoabi and urged the committee to impose a stiff punishment.

“I recognize the Ethics Committee’s consistent stance over the need to protect the political freedom of expression of Knesset members in general and Knesset members representing minorities,” Edelstein wrote.

“Nonetheless, I am of the belief that MK Zoabi long ago crossed every line regarding the conduct expected of a Knesset member. The large number of complaints that I have received demonstrates that this is not a ‘regular’ case of harsh or outrageous expression as occurs from time to time in the Knesset, but rather continuing and provocative conduct.”

Edelstein also mentioned an online article in which Zoabi encouraged Palestinians to “declare popular resistance” and “impose a siege on Israel instead of negotiating with it.”

Lieberman, who heads the Yisrael Beiteinu party, called for Zoabi to be expelled from the country. “It’s not enough to exclude Haneen Zoabi from Knesset debates for six months,” he said. “She should be sent from Israel to Qatar, where she would join the traitor from her party, Azmi Bishara.”

Bishara is a former leader of the Balad party. He fled the country following allegations of treason involving his alleged contact with Hezbollah during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

Zoabi made headlines as far back as 2010 as a passenger on the Turkish ship the Mavi Marmara that attempted to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. In the confrontation with the Israel Navy, nine passengers were killed and another died this year of his wounds.