Israeli Arab Lawmaker Haneen Zoabi Found Guilty of Insulting Policemen

Joint Arab List MK to pay fine and apologize, as part of plea bargain.

Knesset Member Haneen Zoabi attending a rally in Haifa against the Israeli military operation in Gaza, July 18, 2014, surrounded by police.
Rami Shllush

The Nazareth District Court on Thursday convicted MK Haneen Zoabi of insulting a public servant, under a plea agreement reached with the prosecution.

Under the agreement, Zoabi confessed to insulting a public servant, and the prosecution did not charge her with inciting to violence. As part of the deal, Zoabi apologized to the two policemen she had verbally attacked.

During the hearing both sides also made their pre-sentencing arguments before Judge Lili Jung-Goffer. Zoabi’s attorney, Aram Mahamid, told Haaretz that it was agreed Zoabi would pay a fine of 3,000 shekels ($755) and promised not to commit the same violation for the next two years. The state also wants to impose a suspended sentence on Zoabi, but the defense vehemently opposes this. Sentencing is scheduled for February 7.

Early in July 2014, a few days after the killing of Mohammed Abu-Khdeir, Zoabi made offensive remarks to Arab policemen in the Nazareth courthouse, where they were attending remand extension hearings for riot suspects. The statements included, “We should wash the floor with those who collaborate against their own people,” and “They should fear the shabab [young rioters]” and “We should spit in their faces.”

Explaining the state’s request to impose a suspended sentence, prosecutor Raz Walter said, “We are not talking about a slip of the tongue during an argument or a curse spit into the air, but a series of harsh sentences, like a self-contained speech that included a series of rude comments to policemen about their activities.”

He added that a punishment was important “to deter others from using rude words against public servants,” noting that Zoabi is an elected official with influence over a wide public.

Zoabi responded that, “The Israel Police and the prosecution made grand declarations against me at the time, but what’s left is a conviction for insulting a public servant. Usually one isn’t even prosecuted [for this violation] and certainly no one asks for punishments like imprisonment or a suspended sentence.

“I have no issue with any policeman, which is why as far as I’m concerned this case was over long ago,” she continued. “I am a public representative and I act in accordance with the values of justice. What happened, happened.”

Zoabi added she had been protesting the fact that the police were persecuting demonstrators and political activists, and she would continue to protest this.

“It’s not just my right, it’s my obligation,” she said. “The Israel Police and the judicial system conduct themselves one way toward the Jewish public and a different way toward Arabs.”