A week after an hours-long interrogation by police for alleged incitement and insulting two policemen, police recommended Tuesday that MK Hanin Zoabi be put on trial for incitement, threats and maligning a civil servant.
Last Monday, the Arab MK was grilled for five hours by police over an incident last month. She complained as she left the police’s Lahav 433 compound in the town of Lod that the proceedings were “a superfluous investigation that is part of the persecution against me.”
But on Tuesday, police said Zoabi should be put on trial based on findings gathered during the interrogation. The MK, a native of the northern city of Nazareth, slammed the recommendation, saying it resulted from a “racist, fascist” atmosphere in Israel.
“The recommendation is not a result of my interrogation, in which I gave detailed responses to all the allegations against me, but of the warmongering, racist and fascist atmosphere that casts its shadow on all Israeli authorities,” Zoabi said, adding that the “scandalous, unprecedented” decision to bar her from Knesset debates for six months was a result of the same atmosphere.
She said she hoped Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein would reject the police’s recommendation.
“However, if I am put on trial, I intend to turn the hearings into the most political trial in the State of Israel: I am being put on trial over a trivial, insignificant matter, while ministers and MKs who have incited racism, violence and even murder are not investigated, even after complaints have been filed against them,” she said.
Zoabi added that she would appeal to foreign embassies, human rights groups and the Inter-Parliamentary Union over what she described as political persecution for expressing legitimate views.
Two weeks ago, Weinstein decided to open an investigation against Zoabi after two policemen, apparently Arabs themselves, complained that, during hearings for the extension of arrest for Israeli-Arabs who demonstrated against Operation Protective Edge, she insulted them with a spiteful outburst. According to Ynet, Zoabi called them “collaborators with the oppressors of their own people” and said that “they should be used to wipe the floor.”
Last month, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said he would appeal to the Central Elections Committee to disqualify Zoabi and her Balad party from running in the next Knesset elections and accused Balad of being “a party of traitors.”
Zoabi, who participated in the 2010 flotilla sail to Gaza organized by the Islamic IHH group in Turkey, recently angered right-wing lawmakers with articles she penned that they interpreted as advice to Hamas on how to defeat Israel and as a call for violence against Israel.
“The Israelis want a brief campaign, the civilian population cannot stomach a prolonged conflict and there are many surprises not only on the military level but also with regard to the number and range of the rockets,” she wrote in an op-ed for Felesteen, an Arab-language publication. “We must declare popular resistance instead of security coordination, besiege ‘Israel’ instead of negotiating with it and unite instead of splinter.”
In the article, the Jewish state’s name appeared between inverted commas — a style used by some Arab writers to refer to Israel without implying recognition of its legitimacy.
On Tuesday, the Knesset Ethics Committee announced that it would discuss a trip by Zoabi and two other Arab Israeli MKs to Qatar, which Israel accuses of funding Hamas, following an official request by an MK and outpouring of criticism by other Israeli politicians.
The committee will investigate all the details of the trip by Zoabi and fellow Balad MKs Jamal Zahalka and Basel Ghattas, including the source of funding and its purpose, as per the request of Yesh Atid MK Yifat Kariv.
Several reports in recent days suggested that the trio may have met with former party member Azmi Bishara, who is wanted in Israel on suspicion that he spied for the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.
According to a Channel 2 report, the three MKs visited Qatar and met with Bishara, the founder of Balad and a former MK and academic who has lived there in self-imposed exile since 2007. He fled Israel after being investigated over suspicions that he provided Hezbollah with information during the Second Lebanon War.
Balad, and specifically Zoabi, have been criticized by Israel’s right wing regularly for the past several months, stemming from a number of incidents — most recently when she and Zahalka were arrested at an Arab Israeli protest against Operation Protective Edge in July.
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch alleged that Zoabi struck a police officer and called for the revocation of her Knesset immunity. The Knesset Ethics Committee later suspended Zoabi from participating in debates on the Knesset floor for six months.
Zoabi had previously drawn the ire of Israeli politicians from across the spectrum in June when she said that the kidnappers of three Israeli teens, who were later found killed, were not terrorists.
In an official statement, a Hamas spokesperson has hailed Zoabi as a “Palestinian woman full of patriotism,” expressing the wish that some in the Palestinian Authority would take her as an example.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.