Hamas came out in support of MK Hanin Zoabi (Balad) on Wednesday, praising the controversial parliamentarian who has come under fire in Israel for saying that the kidnappers of three missing Israeli youths were “not terrorists.”
“We in Hamas bless Hanin Zoabi for standing her ground,” a spokesman for the terror organization said, “and we hope that the leadership of the Palestinian Authority will follow her example in supporting the homeland, citizens, and the Palestinian problem rather than the disappearance of soldiers, or boasting about security coordination” with Israel.
During an interview with Al-Jazeera Wednesday night, Zoabi reiterated her position regarding the three kidnapped teens, Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frankel, and Gil-ad Shaar. “We blame the Israeli government, whose terrorist policies are responsible for what has befallen the Palestinian people and which is responsible even for the kidnapping,” she said.
“Israel wants to strengthen its political and military position in the West Bank, rather than return the captives,” she added.
On Thursday morning, Zoabi clarified that if the teens were killed by their captors, that would qualify as terrorism.
“Murder is terrorism,” she said. “It is illegitimate and should never be repeated, but the State of Israel is the one that led us to this event.”
Opposition chief MK Isaac Herzog (Labor Party) sent a letter Wednesday morning to Zoabi, arguing that her statements were damaging to Israel’s Arab community.
“Yesterday, at the height of the mission to find the boys, you chose to utter obscene statements in support of their kidnapping that I take very seriously,” Herzog said. “These statements are as harmful to peace and coexistence as any price tag act. Furthermore, these statements cause enormous pain to the families who are waiting anxiously to know their sons’ fate, and at this difficult time it would have been better if they had not been said.”
He was joining Israeli politicians from the right and center, who roundly slammed Zoabi Tuesday, some even calling for her to be removed from her post and prosecuted over her comments.
“Not only are the kidnappers terrorists, but so is Hanin Zoabi,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman wrote on his Facebook page. “The sentence of the kidnappers and that of Zoabi, who is inciting and encouraging abductions, must be the same.”
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) said her comments constituted incitement and fellow Likud MK Ofir Akunis said he would renew his efforts, unsuccessful in the last Knesset, to have Zoabi expelled from parliament.
MK Miri Regev (Likud) said Zoabi should be “expelled to Gaza and stripped of her [Knesset] immunity.”
MKs sought to bar Zoabi from running for the Knesset in the 2013 elections, in part because she participated in the Mavi Marmara flotilla that sought to break Israel’s security blockade on Gaza, but they were overruled by the Supreme Court.