MK From Lieberman's Party Rapped for Threatening Colleague Over Gaza Flotilla

Last June, MK Anastassia Michaeli forced her way over to Hanin Zoabi, who took part in the flotilla last May, and physically threatened her. Knesset Ethics Committee: behavior is without precedent.

An Israeli lawmaker was reprimanded Tuesday for physically threatening a colleague who had participated in the attempt to break the Gaza blockade which ended in the deaths of nine pro-Palestinian activists last year.

During a stormy parliamentary debate about the Gaza flotilla last June, Anastassia Michaeli forced her way over to Hanin Zuabi (Balad), who was trying to address the plenum from the Knesset podium.

Zoabi - Tomer Appelbaum - June 2010
Tomer Appelbaum

But ushers prevented Michaeli, 36, of the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, from reaching Zuabi, 42, of the Arab-Israeli National Democratic Assembly.

Emotions had been running high and insults flew during the debate, held days after Israeli naval commandos overpowered the Turkish Mavi Marmara passenger ship in international waters off the coast of Gaza last May.

The commandos shot dead eight Turks and an American national of Turkish descent, as they battled with a group of knife- and stick-wielding activists on board.

Israel accused the activists of an attempted "lynch" of the commandos while the organizers accused Israel of "massacring" civilians.

Zuabi, from the Arab town of Nazareth in northern Israel, had been on board the Mavi Marmara, but said she had not been on the deck when Israeli commandos boarded and did not witness the violence.

Right-wing Jewish lawmakers accused her of being a "traitor" and a "terrorist," while an Arab lawmaker shouted at the St Petersburg-born Michaeli, as she was ushered out the plenum: "Go back to Russia."

A series of complaints were subsequently filed to the Knesset Ethics Committee, which on Tuesday condemned especially Michaeli's conduct.

"The Committee found no precedent of a Knesset member physically trying to interrupt a speech and considers this crossing a line that cannot be ignored," it ruled.