MK Censured for Outburst Against Ethics Committee Chair

'There's one right that can't be taken away from me, and that's the right to protest by means of the right to remain silent,' Tibi said and stood in silence for one minute.

MK Ahmed Tibi was banned from making one-minute speeches in the legislature for one month by the Knesset Ethics Committee on Tuesday after he shouted "I scorn you and your decisions" at the committee chairman. The disciplinary measure is the latest episode in a controversy over remarks made by the United Arab List-Ta'al chairman.

The ban, which applies to special sessions during which MKs can speak for one minute on any issue they choose, went into effect immediately. In response Tibi took the podium in the Knesset plenum and said: "There's one right that can't be taken away from me, and that's the right to protest by means of the right to remain silent," and stood in silence for one minute.

MK Ahmed Tibi - Emil Salman - 08022012
Emil Salman

In reply to interjections from the House, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said: "The member of Knesset is allowed to express his opinions through silence."

The ban came about two weeks after Tibi - in response to being banned for a week from the Knesset plenum and committee sessions for a previous infraction - shouted at Ethics Committee chairman MK Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas ) in Arabic.

The earlier ban was imposed after Tibi recited in the Knesset a brief but colorful speech he called "Problems with Anastassia's Plumbing" and dedicated it to MK Anastassia Michaeli (Yisrael Beiteinu ). In January Michaeli was suspended from the Knesset for one month after dashing water in the face of another Arab MK, Raleb Majadele (Labor ), during a Knesset committee session.

Tuesday's decision by the committee drew fire from MKs across the political spectrum. In a letter to Rivlin, Tibi's party colleagues described the measure as "petty political tit for tat," and demanded Rivlin's immediate intervention to stop this "witch hunt against Tibi and [the other] Arab Knesset members."

MKs Shlomo Molla (Kadima ) and Eitan Cabel (Labor ) demanded that Rivlin use his parliamentary authority to dissolve the committee and reconstitute it with a more balanced composition. "It seems the Ethics Committee has become a gag for MKs who do not share the committee members' views," Molla and Cabel wrote.

Speaking off the record, a source close to the committee rebuffed accusations of political persecution and said that committee members were genuinely shocked by Tibi's "sexist and chauvinist remarks, which were intended as an insult to MK Michaeli."

Acting committee chairman MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union ) declined to comment on Tuesday on the grounds that the proceedings of the Ethics Committee are classified.

Rivlin's office did not issue a response.

Last month Tibi lodged an official complaint with Knesset security after death threats were posted on his Facebook page in response to his recitation of the poem. Knesset authorities referred the complaint to the Israel Police.

Tibi's poem follows: "Anastassia, who has a problem with her plumbing / Who grew there in the garbage pile of Yisrael Beiteinu [Israel our Home] / Or should we say, Russia our Home / From which the road was short for the bill called muezzin, now a joint Bibi-Anastassia venture / As well as her unwise use of water, during a dry spell in which every drop counts / For, Israel may be drying [mityabeshet], but it is far from being ashamed [mitbayeshet] / Anastassia, who has run amok / Poured water on her colleague / And thus I will call the baby by its name: Kos Amok [literally, a 'glass of madness,' but a play on words of an Arabic profanity]."