Member of Knesset Afu Agbaria (Hadash) argued on Tuesday that the Gaza-based Hamas is not a terror organization, but a “liberation organization.”
In an interview on the Knesset Channel, the Arab MK insisted Israel was to blame for rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, and said there was no difference between an Israeli woman widowed by a Palestinian terrorist and Palestinian women whose husbands were killed by Israeli actions.
Agbaria’s statements prompted his fellow interviewee, right-wing Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, to stand up in anger and leave the studio.
“Hamas is not a terror organization,” Agbaria said at one point during the interview. “(It is) a liberation organization. It wants to liberate.”
Agbaria stressed that “no one is condoning murder. Not of any person. I denounce murder on either side, the same as (I denounce) murder on the Palestinian side.”
Agbaria claimed that Israel was responsible for ‘mortar shell’ attacks from Gaza, apparently referring to rocket attacks in general.
“They’re always making one provocation or another in Gaza. There’s always a list of wanted Palestinians. Israel goes and kills them because they say they’re wanted and then when the Palestinians shoot they say, ‘There, you see, mortar shells.’”
Agbaria then asserted that “The mortar shell issue is one big Isra-bluff” — slang for a con — “No one has even been wounded by it, or killed by it. But from one Israeli bomb a thousand people die, a hundred people die.”
Since 2001, 44 people have been killed by rockets and mortar shells, according to human rights group B’tselem. Hundreds have been wounded.
The host then said she wanted to speak of Hadas Mizrahi, whose husband Baruch Mizrahi, a senior police officer, was killed by a Palestinian gunman in April while driving with his family off-duty to Hebron on Passover eve. According to police, Mizrahi was shot dead by Ziad Awad, a convicted terrorist released in 2011 as part of the deal to free captured soldier Gilad Shalit.
“Why Hadas Mizrahi?” Agbaria asked. “Is her husband’s blood different from the blood of Palestinian women’s husbands? Why don’t you think about the other side as well?”
“The reality in the (Palestinian) territories is terrible,” he went on. “These people’s reality, how they live, is terrible. The occupation is the only problem. Let’s finish the occupation and then these things won’t happen.”
“How many mothers and how many Palestinian ‘Hadassot’ are there? Why is the blood of her husband more precious than the blood of thousands of Palestinians who have already been murdered?” he finished.
When the host then turned to Feiglin to ask for his response to Agbaria’s various statements, the Likud MK, who had been sitting stone-faced opposite Agbaria, simply said: “This is the time to get up and leave,” then did just that.
The surprised host called after him to return, then moved on saying “That’s your choice and we of course respect it.”
Agbaria has a history of making statements deemed inflammatory by fellow legislators. In 2010, appearing before a gathering of European parliamentarians, Agbaria called for Israel’s leaders to be tried in international courts for war crimes, drawing condemnation from fellow MKs at the event, Labor’s Nachman Shai and Einat Wilf.
Agbaria’s latest comments are likely to place him squarely in the sights of his fellow parliamentarians.
Arab MK Hanin Zoabi has faced a severe public backlash for her statements last week that the kidnappers of three Israeli teens in the West Bank are “not terrorists” but rather “people who do not see any way of changing their situation and they have to resort to these measures until Israel sobers up a bit, until the citizens of Israel and the public sober up and relate to the suffering of others.”
Israeli politicians from across the political spectrum slammed Zoabi, some calling for her to be removed from her parliamentary post and prosecuted. Coalition Chairman Yariv Levin (Likud) asked Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to open an investigation into Zoabi, charging that her comments constituted incitement. Police have concluded an initial probe into the matter and have recommended a criminal investigation of Zoabi.
Since the June 12 kidnapping of Eyal Yifrach, 19, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and Gil-ad Shaar, 16, the IDF has been conducting a sweeping operation in the West Bank that has resulted in the arrest of over 350 Palestinians, a majority of them members of Hamas. Four Palestinians have been killed in clashes related to the operation.
Four days after her initial comments, Zoabi also said in an interview on Channel 2 that she wasn’t sure the kidnapping had taken place at all, claimed Israel wasn’t so much hunting for the trio as seeking to kill Palestinians, and accused the Palestinian Authority of treason in cooperating with Israel in the operation to find the Israeli youths. She also said the Israeli operation to find the teens amounted to terrorism.
“Three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped, but the two Palestinian kids who were killed [on Friday] were not even mentioned [in your broadcast]? The blood of Jews is more precious than the blood of Palestinians?” Zoabi said.
“[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is not looking for those boys, he’s busy invading the West Bank and killing Palestinians. The main goal of the operation is to destroy Hamas, not to find the boys.
“The context of this operation is the Israeli occupation and [Israeli] terror,” she went on. But “the only way to end this kidnapping is to release Palestinian prisoners.”