I can see it happening as we speak!

The Knesset’s House Committee recommended today, by a vote of 7-1, to revoke Balad MK Hanin Zoabi’s Parliamentary privileges. You might recall that Zoabi was a passenger on the ill fated Gaza flotilla. Upon her return to the Knesset, she was verbally assailed by various right-wing parliamentarians and prevented from speaking. The three main privileges Zoabi stands to lose are the privilege to leave the country, the privilege of carrying a diplomatic passport and the right to have the Knesset cover her litigation fees if she is put on trial.

These and other privileges are meant to allow an MK to fulfill his or her duties without fear of undue pressure from others. These privileges are accorded to all MKs – those we agree with and those we disagree with and are meant to promote and enhance the democratic process. Whether I like it or not, Zoabi’s actions are supported by her constituents. Haaretz reported that “Likud MK Yariv Levin, who serves as chairman of the Knesset House Committee, said before the discussion that Hanin Zuabi betrayed the State of Israel and she must be put on trial.” I suggest that those that seek to diminish the democratic process are the ones betraying the foundations of the State of Israel.

Above and beyond all that, the angry, frustrated parliamentarians calling for Zoabi’s hide are on the verge of handing to our enemies, on a silver platter, yet another PR victory. Now what will we say when they accuse us of being racist and undemocratic? Unless of course we are willing to use these same standards across the board regardless of an MKs ethnicity or ideological orientation. Will we strip parliamentary privileges from MKs who support extremist settlers who openly battle the IDF and take the law into their own hands? Do we really want to go down that slippery slope? Do we? I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t.

About the author

ck

Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.

30 Comments

  • there is PR and then there is the welfare of the state- she really is a traitor. She helped our enemies try to break our own naval blockade and that is simply unaccaptable, No matter what the world says. damage control is one thing- but we can’t ignore treachory so that the world will like us.

  • Participate in a rally? Okay. Join a bunch of “Kill the Jew” chanting terrorists in trying to break our own naval blockade? And try to break it so as to help another bunch of terrorists whose goal in life is to destroy the State?

    Yeah–there are limits to everything, even parliamentary privileges. They are not intended to get you off the hook for treason.

  • The MK Zoabi affair is a PR nightmare. Removing three privileges will not do any good.

    On the one hand, I am against silencing the democratic representatives of the Israeli public. On the other, we do need to find some way to combat the current situation, which allows MKs to use their parliamentary immunity in order to engage in activities that harm the State. The root of the problem the Jewish MKs have with MK Zoabi is that she attempted something illegal (breaking the Gaza Blockade) and is going to get away with it.

    Zoabi’s actions might be supported by some of her constituents, but then again so were the actions of Rabbi Meir Kahane. My assumption is that most of the Jewish parties will work towards prohibiting the party that was formed by Azmi Bishara in 1995 from participating in the next elections. In the meantime, MK Zoabi will be allowed to complete her term, despite supporting a nuclear Iran, rejecting Israel as a Jewish state and labeling herself Palestinian.

    As someone who covers the Knesset on a daily basis, I can tell you that Zoabi, currently in her first term, was known as a silent MK until recently. Following the criticism she received for visiting Libya, she became more vocal and made the decision to join the Flotilla. My concern is what have we motivated her to do next?

    What solution do I offer? Stop provoking MK Zoabi and her influence will disappear. Set new rules that the parties and MKs must follow from the next election on. I support freedom of speech, but incitement on all sides should be illegal.

  • I agree with ck that this is simply a PR problem. Despite the fact that nearly half of Israeli Jews believe that Arabs should not be allowed to vote, no one one should suggest that this is part of a deeper problem. Only anti-semites who support the Al-Qaeda fauxtilla would suggest such a thing.

    As ever, this can be smoothed over with some good PR and marketing,

    • Cabel, you’ve repeated variations of the same comment in about 6 or 7 discussions now. At some point, I will consider it spam and will treat it as such.

      By the way, do you have any evidence that any Arab in Israel is precluded from voting?

  • There hasn’t been much international scrutiny of the status and prospects of Israeli Arabs (relatively speaking, anyway), but that may be about to change.

    This story evokes a fearful, defensive, unself-confident country.

    • Tom, it may reflect a fearful, defensive country but it may also reflect an angry country that feels that not only does it have enemies without closing in, but there are enemies within who are helping them.

      On the other hand, I’d be curious to see what would happen if you had people in Congress who would stand up, criticize US military actions and praise its enemies while going on trips to visit Iran and the Taliban leadership. What kind of reactions would that cause, do you think?

  • It’s not about her views – it’s about that fact that she participated in a violent operation against Israel. She acts against Israel’s best interests, assists Israel’s enemies, and should be tried for treason. Some things are black and white – this is one of them.

  • Even Bibi said:

    At the start of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Mr. Netanyahu said Israel had information that the “dozens of thugs” armed with iron bars, clubs and knives who clashed with Israeli soldiers on the Turkish ship were a distinct group not associated with the hundreds of other passengers on board. He said the group “boarded the boat separately, in a different city, organized separately, equipped itself separately and went on deck under different procedures.”

    so… Yeah.

  • The settlers may break the law, and they are punished for it, but they do not advocate the destruction of Israel, openly side with enemies who are in a state of war with Israel, and participate in actually trying to help those enemies get more weapons. She is a traitor, and she should not be sitting in the Knesset.

    I don’t believe that even the most rabid Leftie in the Congress actually wants to see the US destroyed. However, if anyone in the US government were found guilty of aiding and abetting a state or an organization that was engaged in a war with the US, then, yes, they are traitors and should be tried as such.

    Same goes for Jewish traitors in the Knesset. No country should have to let people who want to destroy it actually be sitting in the government. There are limits.

  • themiddle, nearly half of Israeli Jews believe that Arabs should not be allowed to vote. I heartily agree that any discussion of the fact should be disallowed and shoved under the carpet.

  • Cabel,

    I’m curious where you are getting your statistics from. I would be very interested if you could link me to that study.

    I wonder if they made a separation between Ra’am-Ta’al, Chadash and Balad.

  • I don’t think that’s a pr issue xisnotx. Every country has its crazies. Why in the US even I believe there are people who hate and want to kill Blacks, Mexicans, Jews etc. etc. I’m not excusing it of course, but it’s just not a PR issue.

  • Middle, if you want me to agree her behavior is obnoxious, sure, I agree. But I’m afraid I can’t agree with those who view opposition to the Gaza blockade as a form of treason. The blockade is a policy, the merits of which are highly, and increasingly, debatable. Perhaps the best analogy is the opposition of Obama and others to the surge in Iraq (remember when Harry Reid declared that the war was lost?).

    When the climate of fear is such that opposition to what amount to tactics is construed as betrayal of the state, you get precisely what we see here: a contraction of freedom of discourse, even by elected representatives.

    Check out the Economist’s leader this week. A blockade designed to jail Hamas has instead imprisoned the jailers. It is largely a failure on policy grounds, and if a failure there, it is a humanitarian failure as well, because there aren’t benefits justifying the suffering of the population. Israel could have negotiated with Hamas, per Peter Beinart. Or, it could’ve rooted it out in Cast Lead. Israel did neither, and now it’s stuck with the worst of outcomes. Is it treason to say so?

    • Tom, I agree with what you say, and I actually agree with much of what that Economist editorial had to say. I almost posted it the other day.

      I don’t dispute at all that what they’re doing to Zoabi is foolish or unacceptable, I am just stating that I’m not sure that it represents a trend as much as an expression of anger and sense of betrayal by Jewish Israelis toward a member of a minority they increasingly view as a real fifth column.

  • Tom,

    I agree it is not treason to say so. But to act on it enters a grey area. If it wasn’t grey, all of the Israeli Arab MKs would of joined MK Zoabi.

    From a democratic standpoint, it is frowned upon when a member of the legislative branch of government disregards the executive branches decision – in actions. The legislative branch may condemn the executive branch, but by acting against it – it jeopardizes democracy. If an MK is allowed to disregard the law, citizens will follow suit. I have no problem with MK Zoabi expressing her views, but by joining the Flotilla – she was trying to undermine democracy.

    As for the policy itself, Egypt has opened up the Rafah crossing, thereby ending the blockade on the southern border of Gaza and ending the humanitarian crisis. Why the international community is still putting pressure on Israel is beyond me.

  • Jeremy, we’ll see how long Egyptian solicitude for the Gazans’ fate lasts. Egypt wants this to remain Israel’s tar baby…. How do you respond to the point ck makes in his last paragraph?

  • Tom Morrissey

    are israel and hamas in a state of war? according to international law, is not a blockade a legal act in such a case?

    even if it is not, is not providing aid and comfort to the enemy an act of treason?

    she is lucky she is not a us congress person

    she would have already been impeached, tried, convicted and sent to leavenworth

  • how about this for a compromise?

    let her stay as an mk

    let her party continue to run for seats

    and let kach again be a party

    and lets see who gets more votes

  • Joe, is Gaza a state? How are its residents classified, as a matter of international law? Gaza is sui generis, don’t you think?…. I don’t have a problem with opposing Hamas and, to my mind, Israel failed to finish the job in Cast Lead. Now, it’s stuck with a policy that’s become a ball and chain around its ankles.

    The Gaza embargo/blockade is a perfect policy for an Israeli government devoted, come what may, to curating the status quo. It becomes part of that very status quo, evading scrutiny of its effectiveness. Look at the US embargo of Cuba. No one north of Fort Lauderdale thinks its a good idea, yet it’s become a sacred cow, and its opponents are labelled indifferent to human rights and soft on the Cuban regime for calling for its end. Is an Israeli MK who opposes the Gaza blockade soft on Hamas? This is the sort of reasoning Joe’s comment reflects.

  • Tom, Egypt has opened up the Rafah Crossing until further notice. I don’t see them closing the crossing anytime soon. This means that Gaza is no longer isolated and they don’t need to use tunnels to smuggle in goods. Egypt’s action was probably the best thing to happen to Israel. I have not heard one Israeli MK who is calling on Egypt to close Rafah. So, I’m going to stand by question: Why is the international community still putting pressure on Israel?

    I believe there is a lot of hatred on both sides. Many Israelis might hate the Israeli Arabs, but believe me – it goes both ways. I am against incitement to violence on both sides. When Zoabi incites violence I condemn it, just as I condemn recent reports of Jews sending her threatening letters. I think that MK Zoabi’s actions were meant to hurt the legitimacy of the Israeli government. That said, I was disgusted by the Knesset session. I wrote a very interesting article on the Zoabi affair:

    http://knessetjeremy.wordpress.com/2010/06/06/the-democratic-game-%E2%80%93-an-in-depth-analysis-of-the-mk-zoabi-affair/

    There is a Democratic principle called “Defensive democracy”, where democracy limits itself in order to protect itself. It is a dangerous tool, but sometimes it is more dangerous not to use it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defensive_democracy

    http://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%93%D7%9E%D7%95%D7%A7%D7%A8%D7%98%D7%99%D7%94_%D7%9E%D7%AA%D7%92%D7%95%D7%A0%D7%A0%D7%AA

    I believe that MK Zoabi should be entitled to her opinions, but her actions scare most Israelis. Her former party chariman former MK Bashara was a Hezbollah spy during the second Lebanon war. I believe that Balad must change their party platform or not be allowed to run in the next elections.

  • Jeremy, I think ck’s point is that her membership in the Knesset is itself a powerful expression of Israel’s legitimacy. The fact she is free to misuse her office is a measure of the strength of Israeli democracy. (I read you article and it indeed was very good.)

    As a practical matter, wouldn’t taking steps against Arab parties counterproductively fuel Israeli Arab rejectionism?

  • First of all, not x, you spend far too much time reading leftist sources. Second, having the Didi Remez thing happen with my Fellini post and now this Kibush quote of ck’s post is a little scary. Personally, I’m upset Kibush didn’t pick up my “Morons” post.

  • Tom,

    You have inspired me to write an article on the differences between the Arab parties in the Knesset. There are distinict differences, if there wasn’t – they would all be in one big party. Even though all the parties hate Israel, I am actually for having Arab parties, because they do bring Israel legitimacy. I think stressing the differences between Balad and the other parties will help explain my point of view better. To me, Balad is very similar to Kach and is unfortunately becoming more powerful.

    Jeremy

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