MK Zoabi Gets Knesset Bodyguard Amid Wave of Threats Against Her

Police, prosecutors checking whether she violated law against incitement in her remarks about recent kidnapping.

Jonathan Lis
Yaniv Kubovich
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
MK Haneen Zoabi has been assigned a security guard following a wave of threats after she criticized Israel's reaction to trhe kidnapping in Gush Etzion.Credit: Tomer Noiberg
Jonathan Lis
Yaniv Kubovich

MK Haneen Zoabi was assigned a bodyguard by the Knesset on Wednesday as a result of the many threats being called in against her, which followed her controversial remarks about last week's kidnapping of three Israeli boys.

Also, in the wake of the many complaints being made against Zoabi, police and the State Prosecutor's Office are looking into whether she may have violated the law against incitement.

The Knesset was in an after she said in a radio interview that the kidnappers "are not terrorists," and that the guilt for last Thursday's snatching of Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Fraenkel and Gilad Shaer lay with Israel. She did, however, add the caveat, "Even if I do not agree with them [the kidnappers]." 

In a conversation with Haaretz Wednesday, Zoabi denied that she had refused such protection, as had been reported in the media. “I did not request the removal of this protection. It is not day-long protection, and it varies according to my schedule. In places that may be unsafe I will be accompanied by a bodyguard. I would dispense with it, but the decision is not mine to make.”

She noted that the number of threats against her had spiked in the last two days. “There are hundreds of threats and abuse over the phone, many callers telling me that my end is near.”

Zoabi changed her telephone number Wednesday, in the hope of evading the deluge of hate calls. “I was taken by surprise at the public’s reaction. I was surprised since the injustice inflicted on the other side is so much greater. There are thousands of abducted Palestinians in Israeli prisons. Two demonstrators were murdered in Beitunia. It’s disgusting. It’s not that I want Israelis to be abducted and not released. The exact opposite is the case.”

Zoabi told Radio Tel Aviv Tuesday morning: "Is it strange that people living under occupation and living impossible lives, in a situation where Israel kidnaps new prisoners every day, is it strange that they kidnap? They are not terrorists. Even if I do not agree with them, they are people who do not see any way to change their reality, and they are compelled to use means like these until Israel wakes up and sees the suffering, feels the suffering of the other.”

In an interview later with Iranian TV, she said: "I put the responsibility [for the kidnapping] on the Israeli government. Israel is the greatest hothouse of terror in the region."

'I want the boys freed'

Zoabi told Haaretz she opposed kidnapping. "Just as I want the kidnapped Palestinian prisoners to be freed, I want the boys to be freed."

In response to Zoabi's remarks Tuesday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said, "The kidnappers aren't the only terrorists, Zoabi is also a terrorist. The fate of the terrorists and the fate of Zoabi, the inciter who encourages kidnapping, should be the same."

Sports and Culture Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) asked the attorney general to urgently examine whether Zoabi's remarks constitute a violation of section 144 of the penal code – incitement to violence or terror.

MK Faina Kirschenbaum (Yisrael Beiteinu) asked Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein to institute procedures for stripping Zoabi of her parliamentary immunity from prosecution.

In 2012, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein opposed the Central Elections Committee's decision – later invalidated by the High Court of Justice – to bar Zoabi from running in the 2013 elections because she supposedly identified with terror organizations.