Firebrand MK Zoabi to Pay Fine for Calling Israeli Arab Policemen Traitors

As part of plea bargain, Israeli Arab lawmaker to pay 500 shekel fine and send letter of apology.

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MK Haneen Zoabi speaking at a Joint Arab List event in Nazareth during the recent Knesset election campaign, Feb. 14, 2014.
MK Haneen Zoabi.Credit: Rami Shlush
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

MK Haneen Zoabi (Joint Arab List) has reached a plea bargain with state prosecutors and will admit to insulting a public servant and pay a fine of 500 shekels ($130) for an incident that took place after the kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian teen last summer.

As part of the deal, the firebrand Arab lawmaker will be convicted of a lesser offense after first being charged with inciting violence.

Haaretz has obtained the letter in which Zoabi apologizes for events that took place at the Nazareth Magistrate Court a year ago, following the arrest of local residents for disturbing the peace, triggered by the murder of Mohammed Abu-Khdeir in Jerusalem.

The incident occurred two days before the start of Operation Protective Edge; Zoabi was accused of insulting Arab policemen during proceedings dealing with extension of the remand of Arab demonstrators. According to the charges, she called the policemen traitors.

Over recent months Zoabi's lawyer Hassan Jabareen, the head of the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights, has been in contact with state prosecutors, exchanging various formulations of an apology letter. In the final version. she writes that “concerning events at the court in Nazareth I noted during my interrogation, in the media and in an affidavit I submitted following attempts to prevent my participation in the elections to the 20th Knesset, that my statements were made on the background of the harsh detentions [of demonstrators] and due to my emotional agitation – such words don’t reflect my style or my way, and I didn’t intend to hurt anyone."

"I’m sorry for what I said and apologize to anyone who was offended. For me, this event was an exception,” the letter read.

Referring to the plea bargain, Zoabi said that “everyone now sees that this was a storm in a teacup. There was no incitement to racism and violence and the charges were unfounded. I was questioned as part of a strategy of blaming the victim, and an expression of discrimination by the authorities when it comes to enforcing the law against Arab citizens, while blatantly ignoring the surrounding rising tide of wild incitement [against Arabs]”.

Zoabi deplored what she called the wave of random and arbitrary arrests of Arab demonstrators by the police which were motivated by political vengeance and racism.

Earlier this year, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein announced his decision to prosecute Zoabi for incitement to violence and insulting a public official. He said that this decision was based on the recommendation of the State Prosecutor and the unit dealing with cases relating to freedom of speech.

Attorney Jabareen told Haaretz that he and his client decided to end this affair in a plea bargain and forego a lengthy legal procedure dealing with freedom of expression and with MK Zoabi’s immunity from prosecution for these alleged offenses.

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