WATCH: Verbal Clashes in Knesset After Lawmaker Calls Israeli Soldiers Murderers

Israeli Arab MK Zoabi causes storm during debate on reconciliation with Turkey, prompting calls to have her barred from legislature.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Verbal clashes in the Knesset after lawmaker calls Israeli soldier murderers
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

A clash broke out at the Knesset plenum on Wednesday after MK Haneen Zoabi (Joint List) called Israeli soldiers who participated in the takeover of the 2010 Gaza flotilla "murderers." Her comments took place during a legislature session on the reconciliation agreement with Turkey, formally announced on Tuesday.

Lawmakers Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid), Oren Hazan (Likud) and Hilik Bar (Zionist Union) gathered around the podium and demanded that Zoabi be removed. Levy even ran from his seat and tried to forcefully remove her from the podium. The meeting's chairman, Deputy Knesset Speaker Hamad Amar (Yisrael Beiteinu) removed Zoabi from the platform and the plenum. Other lawmakers, including Hazan, Levy, Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon and Joint List MK Jamal Zahalka, were also removed.

Turkey and Israel have reconciled after a six-year rift. The agreement renormalizes diplomatic relations between the two countries and ends the crisis that erupted following the death of nine Turkish civilians during a raid by Israeli commandos on the Mavi Marmara flotilla to Gaza Strip in May 2010 – on which Zoabi was also present.

"I stood here six years ago, some of you remember the hatred and hostility toward me, and look where we got to," Zoabi said in her speech. "Apologies to the families of those who were called terrorists. The nine that were killed, it turns out that their families need to be compensated. I demand an apology to all the political activists who were on the Marmara and an apology to MK Haneen Zoabi, who you've incited against for six years. I demand compensation and I will donate it to the next flotilla. As long as there's a siege, more flotillas need to be organized."

MK Haneen Zoabi's full speech at the Knesset

Lawmakers who were angry with her remarks demanded that she apologize for calling IDF soldiers murderers. Zoabi responded: "The IDF solders who murdered are the ones who need to apologize, you need to apologize."

Kulanu MK Michael Oren said in response that "democracy is based on sovereignty, which in turn is based on basic loyalty. Without these, democracy cannot exist. A Knesset member who calls IDF soldiers murderers continues to receive a salary from the Knesset. Does anyone doubt the necessity of the suspension bill?" he asked, referring to a bill that would let MKs oust their colleagues for incitement to racism or supporting an armed struggle against Israel

Coalition whip, MK David Bitan, also blasted Zoabi and, turning to Israeli Arab lawmakers, said "we need to make sure she doesn’t stay in the Knesset. We've had enough of this and she doesn’t even represent you properly. We must unite all of us to have one lawmaker expelled from the Knesset. This is a cynical abuse of democracy." MK Bitan vowed to legislate a law to have Zoabi outed from the legislature.

Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis, who took the podium immediately after Zoabi, called her a "neo-fascist," and said "The Knesset is the symbol of our sovereignty and she turns it into a stage for rampant incitement this woman is driven by the sole desire of destroying Israel as the state for the Jewish people." He too voiced support for a law that would have Zoabi barred from the legislature.  

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