Far-right, Israeli Arab Lawmakers Clash by Palestinian Hunger Striker's Ward

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Religious Zionism Knesset member Itamar Ben-Gvir in the Arab town of Kafr Qasem in May.
Religious Zionism Knesset member Itamar Ben-Gvir in the Arab town of Kafr Qasem in May. Credit: Moti Milrod

Knesset members Itamar Ben-Gvir of the far-right Religious Zionism party and Ayman Odeh, the leader of the largely Arab Joint List Knesset, got into a confrontation on Tuesday outside the hospital room of a hunger-striking Palestinian.

The incident occurred at Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot, to which the Palestinian, Mukdad Qawasmeh, was admitted after he launched a hunger strike in protest at his administrative detention, meaning that he is being held without trial in Israel.

A video of the confrontation at Kaplan Hospital, Oct. 19, 2021.

Ben-Gvir said that he had come to visit Qawasmeh, but the Palestinian and his mother refused to meet with him, saying that the lawmaker came to the hospital as a provocation. In a video of the confrontation, Odeh is seen pushing Ben-Gvir, who is outspoken in his far-right views.

Odeh was with the Qawasmeh family at the hospital at the time and approached Ben-Gvir. The two confronted each other in the presence of hospital security staff.


Later on Tuesday, Ben Gvir filed a complaint against Odeh at a Jerusalem police station, attributing to Odeh physical attack and misconduct in a public space.

Joint List leader Ayman Odeh in Tel Aviv in April.Credit: Moti Milrod

"We have all seen the amazing images of Odeh attacking me. I might have not stood idly by," explained Ben Gvir, "but this shows exactly the kind of behavior and spirit among the members of the Joint List and United Arab List parties, who feel like they're the landlords here."

According to Ben Gvir, Odeh committed a serious and criminal act, and "he should be put on trial by the police and the attorney general of Israel."

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy condemned what he described as the violence that Odeh directed at Ben-Gvir. “One Knesset member raising a hand against another Knesset member is crossing every red line,” he tweeted. In reference to the absence of an ethics committee in the current Knesset, Levy added: “All along the way, I’ve warned that if the opposition doesn’t permit the establishment of the ethics committee, we would descend from verbal violence to physical violence, as we have seen today.”

Qawasmeh has been on hunger strike for about 90 days and his condition begun to deteriorate in the last few days. His family, which says that his life is in danger, has been leading a campaign for his release and for the release of others in administrative detention. Israel’s Supreme Court suspended the detention order against Qawasmeh due to his medical condition, but he has continued his hunger strike because the court order does not permit him to return home. Attorney Jawad Bulus of the Palestinian prisoners’ administration said Qawasmeh is refusing fluids, lab tests and any other medical treatment.

The five other administration detainees on hunger strike include Qayed Fasfus, who has been on a hunger strike for almost 100 days and is hospitalized at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.

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