Arab MK accuses IDF of ‘atrocity’ for spraying Palestinians, then backtracks

Joint List’s Aida Touma-Sliman later acknowledges video actually shows PA disinfecting West Bank checkpoint as part of efforts against coronavirus; Bennett calls her ‘anti-Semitic’

MK Aida Touma-Sliman of the Joint (Arab) List speaks at the party's Hebrew-language campaign launch in Tel Aviv, August 20, 2019. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)
MK Aida Touma-Sliman of the Joint (Arab) List speaks at the party's Hebrew-language campaign launch in Tel Aviv, August 20, 2019. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

A lawmaker from the Arab-majority Joint List on Friday accused the IDF of an “atrocity” by spraying Palestinians “with an unknown substance,” before acknowledging the video clip of the incident actually shows Palestinian Authority forces disinfecting a West Bank checkpoint.

“Another atrocity [being committed] by the occupation under the cover of the coronavirus — the IDF is spraying Palestinians at the Qalqilya checkpoint with an unknown substance. Everyone agrees the spraying method is not effective in the fight against the virus,” Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman wrote on Twitter

She added: “The horrors being committed under the cover of the crisis can’t be ignored.”

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett quickly responded that the video was from the Palestinian side of the Eyal checkpoint near Qalqilya and that it was the Palestinian Authority who decided on disinfecting the area.

“You’re a liar, anti-Semitic and contemptible,” Bennett said. “It’s unbelievable that Bogie [Ya’alon], Yvette [Avigdor Liberman, [Benny] Gantz, Gabi [Ashkenazi] and [Yair] Lapid are ready to form a government with your finger [on it].”

Bennett, head of the national-religious Yamina alliance, was referring to lawmakers from the Blue and White and Yisrael Beytenu parties, who since last week’s elections have been holding talks on replacing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government — potentially with outside support from the Joint List.

Touma-Sliman later deleted the post and said she had been “misled” about the video.

“This doesn’t take away from the fact that this isn’t a becoming sight and that spraying [disinfectants] is not useful regarding the disease. But this time the responsibility isn’t on the occupation,” she wrote on Twitter.

The Joint List MK also hit back at Bennett.

“At least I have the courage and the integrity to admit mistakes. You continue to callously lie even when the truth is clear,” she said.

The Twitter back-and-forth came after Netanyahu on Thursday spoke with Gantz about forming an emergency government to cope with the coronavirus. The two appeared to be at odds on including the Joint List in such a government, however, with Netanyahu saying it cannot have “terror supporters” and Gantz calling for it to include elements from all political sides.

The chances for such a government, which would end over a year of political deadlock following last week’s third round of indecisive elections, appeared dampened on Friday as Blue and White announced plans to replace the Knesset speaker next week.

Likud lambasted the move to replace Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, a member of the party, accusing its rivals in a statement of playing “small politics” at a time of crisis.

There have been 127 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in Israel, which on Thursday announced the closure of schools and universities as part of efforts to contain the virus.

Israel has also banned public gatherings of over 100 people, cancelled sporting and barred non-nationals who cannot prove an ability to self-quarantine for 14 days from entering the country, among other measures to combat the virus.

Palestinian Authority security forces man a checkpoint at one of the entrances to the West Bank city of Bethlehem on March 10, 2020, currently under lockdown due to coronavirus. (Musa Al Shaer/AFP)

In areas of the West Bank controlled by the Palestinian Authority, there have been 35 confirmed cases of the virus, according to the PA’s official Wafa news agency.

Shortly after Palestinian health authorities confirmed the first cases of coronavirus in the West Bank last Thursday, PA President Mahmoud Abbas declared a state of emergency for 30 days.

The PA has since announced the closure of schools and universities, the cancellation of all hotel reservations and conferences, the shuttering of tourist and religious sites, the banning of public gatherings and protests, and other measures.

It also has declared that no one would be allowed to leave or enter Bethlehem, where the first cases were discovered, except in the case of emergency.

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