MK Zoabi Reaches Plea Deal, Will Not Be Charged With Incitement

Joint List lawmaker, however, admits of insulting a civil servant; 'Clearly there's a systematic policy of double standard between Jews and Arabs and between Jewish and Arab MKs.'

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Haneen Zoabi at her appeal at Israel's Supreme Court, February 17, 2015.Credit: Noam Moskowitz
Jack Khoury

MK Haneen Zoabi (Joint List) will not be charged with incitement to violence but admit she insulted a civil servant under a plea bargain she signed with the State Prosecutor's Office on Thursday.

Zoabi was accused of offending Arab policemen in a Nazareth courthouse at the beginning of July 2014, days after the abduction and burning alive of 13-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir. The policemen attended the remand hearings for several Arabs arrested during the demonstrations protesting the boy's murder.

Two Arab policemen complained that during those hearings, Zoabi had insulted them for serving in the Israeli police force. Among other things, they said, she called them “collaborators with the oppressor against their own people.” She also allegedly said other Arabs “should wipe the floor with them” and “spit in their faces” and told them “they should be afraid” of the "shabab," referring to militant Arab youths.

A few days later, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein ordered, at the police's request, to open a criminal investigation into Zoabi's conduct at the incident, which was partly photographed and posted online. In January this year, Weinstein said Zoabi will stand trial, pending a hearing, on charges of incitement to violence and offending a public official.

According to the plea deal, drafted by the prosecution and Zoabi's defense team from the Adalah advocacy center, the prosecution will ask the court to give Zoabi a suspended prison sentence while the defense will ask for minimum penalty.

In response to the plea deal, Zoabi said that "the State Prosecutor's Office removed the charge of incitement to violence, which was a central clause of the indictment. This proves the ease and recklessness with which an Arab lawmaker, or Arab Israelis, can be indicted for incitement to violence."

"In contrast, when [Yisrael Beiteinu leader] Avigdor Lieberman called to chop off Israeli Arabs' head with an ax, the prosecution said it was difficult to interpret that as a call to violence. Clearly there's a systematic policy of double standard between Jews and Arabs and between Jewish and Arab MKs," Zoabi said.

Last July, after the probe, the police recommended indicting Zoabi for incitement to violence and insulting a civil servant. At the time, Zoabi said that "the decision isn't a result of my investigation, in which I gave a detailed answer to all the accusations against me, but of the racist, fascist, warlike atmosphere that is casting its shadow on all the authorities in Israel."

She said the same applied to the "scandalous, unprecedented decision to suspend me from the Knesset for six months for things I said as part of my duty, which the attorney general said explicitly were not a violation of the law." She was referring to the decision to ban her from the legislature for saying that the kidnappers of three yeshiva students last summer weren't terrorists.

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