Ex-Knesset Lawmaker Interrogated on Suspicion of Incitement on Social Media

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Former Knesset member Hiba Yazbek
Former Knesset member Hiba YazbekCredit: Tomer Appelbaum

A former lawmaker from the Arab-majority Joint List, Heba Yazbak,  was questioned by the police on Monday on suspicion of incitement and what was described as identification with a terrorist act on social media.

Yazbak, who is a member of the Balad party, one of three factions currently in the Joint List, was questioned at the offices of the Lahav 433 investigation unit of the Israel Police regarding Facebook posts in 2013, 2015 and 2017, before she became a legislator in 2019.

She is suspected of sharing posts supporting terrorism, including the acts committed by top Hezbollah operative Samir Kuntar. In 2015, Yazbak posted a picture of Kuntar – who killed a man and his 4-year-old daughter in a terrorist attack in Nahariya in 1979 – along with the caption “shahid” (martyr) and the remark “I haven’t returned from Palestine except to return to Palestine.”

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In 2013, she posted a picture of Dalal Mughrabi, a woman who led a cell from Lebanon that carried out the so-called Coastal Road massacre north of Tel Aviv in 1978 – in which 38 Israelis, including 13 children, were killed. In her post, Yazbak wrote: “Dalal Mughrabi lived for 20 years and did all this. Blessed be the women of the resistance.”

The former lawmaker slammed the investigation as “political and illegitimate,” arguing that the posts in question were “already discussed in the Supreme Court” when she was disqualified from running for Knesset. Yazbak added that the state's institutions could better use their time by going after "heads of organized crime syndicates and their collaborators in the Shin Bet who are terrorizing the Arab streets."

Yazbak, 36, was born in Nazareth and has a Ph.D. in sociology and anthropology from Tel Aviv University. She served in the Knesset from 2019 to April of this year but failed to be elected to the current Knesset, after being placed 7th on the Joint List’s slate in this year’s election in March.

Last year, a number of parties submitted petitions to the Central Elections Committee seeking to bar her from running in the Knesset election in March of 2020 due to past statements, including the posts on Facebook. Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit asked her for clarifications about the posts. Her statements, she said, were not a call to violence but rather a call to end the occupation.

Mendelblit recommended that she be allowed to run for the Knesset, but in January 2020, the Central Elections Committee voted to ban her candidacy, saying she had supported terrorism and denied Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state. Following an appeal to the Supreme Court, in a 5 to 4 vote, the court overturned the election committee’s decision and permitted her to run for the Knesset.

The justices in the majority said there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations against her and that she had expressed regret concerning some of her statements. The majority ruled that there was no “critical mass” of clear, unambiguous and convincing evidence against her that would justify banning her from running in the election. In addition, the court said no evidence was presented that the posts represented part of the dominant character of her activities or that she had acted to carry out improper goals.

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