The Israeli Knesset’s House Committee met Monday (7 June) to recommend revoking the privileges of MK Hanin Zoabi. The revocation would serve as punishment for Zoabi’s participation in last week’s Freedom Flotilla aid mission to Gaza, an act some in the Knesset are calling treason.
Zoabi made history in February 2009, becoming the first Palestinian woman of a Palestinian party elected to the Knesset. Her party is the National Democratic Assembly (al-Tajamu), and before Zoabi, only two other Palestinian women had seats in the Knesset (within Zionist political factions).
Monday’s recommendation was passed by a majority of seven to one, with MK Ilan Gilon, of the left-Zionist party Meretz, in opposition. The revocation of Zoabi’s privileges is conditional on the approval of the Knesset plenum; however, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin has decided to hold off discussing the issue, saying he wants to further study the decision and to receive the advice of the Knesset and government legal advisers, according to the news daily Haaretz.
If approved, Zoabi will lose three key privileges granted to Knesset Members: the privilege to exit the country, the privilege to carry a diplomatic passport, and the privilege to have the Knesset cover litigation fees of an MK if he or she is put on trial.
The National Democratic Assembly condemned the recommendation in a statement, saying, “The decision is racist and anti-democratic. The MKs who incite against Zoabi spill her blood — they are calling on the public to harm her and following their decision, her life will be threatened. These MKs will be responsible for any harm that may be caused to her.” Members of al-Tajamu, including Zoabi, and other Palestinian MKs boycotted the Knesset session.
Immediately following Israel’s attack on the Freedom Flotilla, Interior Minister Eli Yishai petitioned Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to revoke the citizenship of Zoabi (the Supreme Court previously ruled that an interior minister cannot revoke a person’s citizenship without the written authorization of the attorney general).
“MK Zoabi used her immunity as a cloak to protect her from the law, although she was undoubtedly aware of the activists’ preparations for the attack against IDF troops,” Yishai wrote in his letter to Judge Weinstein. “This is a premeditated act of treason, and there is documented proof of this.”
In an interview with Haaretz before she sailed with the Freedom Flotilla, Zoabi was asked if she feared what would happen upon her return. She responded saying,
No, the truth is that I’m not afraid because what will happen to me when I come back is part and parcel of what happened to me before I left. The incitement, the mantra which states that Arab MKs are extremists who do not represent their constituency. People say to us, “You are Israel-haters. You want to destroy the state of Israel. You, you. . .” We’ve been hearing this repeatedly for four years now. In the year that I’ve been in the Knesset, I’ve never felt that others take my position seriously or take the positions that I represent seriously. Even if I talk about civic issue like kindergartens, housing or employment, it is always the same response. Whoever demands equality in the Jewish state — and that apparently has become such a revolutionary, far-reaching demand — ultimately ends up paying the price. So I’m not fearful. I know this is something I must do.
This article was first published by the Alternative Information Center on 7 June 2010 under a Creative Commons license.