A stormy debate took place in the Knesset yesterday at a conference initiated by opposition MKs about Gaza’s children under occupation.
During the debate, which was defined as a meeting and did not take place under the auspices of any Knesset committee, four coalition MKs were removed after a confrontation with other lawmakers and left-wing representatives.
MK Oren Hazan (Likud), who in January was banned from plenum and committee deliberations for six months following a series of offensive statements against MKs, was allowed to attend because this meeting was neither. He was removed, however, after he yelled at moderator, MK Michal Rozin (Meretz), “Do you have a face that can look in the mirror while you are betraying the state?”
Despite repeated requests, Hazan refused to leave the meeting and Knesset Officer Yosef Griff had to remove him.
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The conference was initiated by Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh, MK Dov Khenin (Joint List), Rozin and MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union).
Before it began, the organizers sought to show a video on the subject, but they were forbidden by formal Knesset regulations. They attempted to show the film anyway, but the system did not work.
Instead, all those in attendance received a message with a link to watch the video and they did so on their mobile phones.
“Welcome and thank you for coming to the Conference of Children Under Occupation,” it said. “Any attempt to silence us and hide the occupation will not succeed. Click on the following link and watch a video that the Right is trying unsuccessfully to stop you from viewing.”
Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, whom the Interior Ministry has threatened to expel on grounds that he supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, (BDS), also came to the conference.
“As part of the documentation of abuse in more than 90 countries, Human Rights Watch has been involved in Israel for three decades,” he said. “Year after year we document the same acts. The abuse is committed in the name of security. The children who don’t know anything other than occupation are the greatest victims of all.”
He added, “There are no schools for a third of the residents in Area C, and many children drop out of school. The closure doesn’t stem from security needs, it’s a general ban. There is no solution without hope for the children, and we will all continue, despite the obstacles, to aspire to human rights.”
Also in attendance were MKs Anat Berko and Nurit Koren (Likud), who were removed shortly after they cut off Breaking the Silence spokesman Dean Issacharoff, clashed with former cabinet minister Ran Cohen and interrupted other participants’ remarks.
MK Oded Forer (Yisrael Beiteinu) was also removed after shouting out criticism about the conference. “This is a shame and an embarrassment, Shame on you!” Forer yelled at Rozin. He stood up and read off the names of Israeli children killed in terror attacks in recent years and asked the organizers, “How can you convene a gathering like this without mentioning the poor children who were murdered just because they were Israelis? This conference shames the organizers, who are serving the terrorists instead of the Israeli public.”
Odeh said during the discussion that, “the children living in the occupied territories suffer from restrictions of movement, arrests, daily interaction with a foreign army, and a lack of water and electricity.”
Svetlova said, “[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s false narrative seeks to show the world that everything is fine. But everything is not fine. What can we do, the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are here and aren’t planning to leave. We have to deal with this and not escape responsibility, because averting responsibility turns our children into occupiers.”
under the fear of shelling? With closures and fears? When even in the western Negev the children live in fear, it’s hard to imagine how extreme the situation is for the children in Gaza.”
Rozin added: “On the Right there are those who are willing to sentence a child of eight to death, but who refuse to even talk about the significance of that decision. Even if this was a discussion that was hard to hear, we were obligated to conduct it.”