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MK Zoabi apologizes for calling Arab police ‘traitors’

Apology comes as part of plea bargain that allows Joint List lawmaker to dodge more serious incitement charge for July 2014 incident

Joint (Arab) List MK Hanin Zoabi attends a committee meeting at the Knesset, November 2, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Joint (Arab) List MK Hanin Zoabi attends a committee meeting at the Knesset, November 2, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Firebrand Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi of the Joint (Arab) List apologized Monday for calling Arab policemen traitors during a demonstration in Nazareth last year.

The apology is part of a plea bargain that allows Zoabi to dodge a more serious incitement charge for the July 2014 incident, during which she accused an Arab police officer of treason against his people, a statement interpreted by officials as a call for violence against Arab Israeli officers.

“My remarks came against a backdrop of harsh arrests,” Zoabi wrote in a letter of apology, adding that she was “upset” at the time, and that the things she said “were not representative of my style or my way.”

Zoabi added that she “had no intention of insulting anyone. I’m sorry I said those things and apologize to anyone who was hurt by them.”

MK Hanin Zoabi takes part in a protest against Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, in Haifa on July 18, 2014. (Photo credit: Flash90)
MK Hanin Zoabi takes part in a protest against Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, in Haifa, July 18, 2014. (Flash90)

Also Monday, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein informed Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein in writing that Zoabi will be indicted for insulting a public official. The indictment is part of the plea bargain, which also saw Zoabi agree to waive her parliamentary immunity (enabling the conviction) and pay a NIS 3,000 fine.

The incident took place outside the Nazareth Magistrate’s Court, during a trial for Arabs arrested during riots over the murder of 16-year-old Muhammed Abu Khdeir by Jewish terrorists.

During the proceedings, Zoabi joined hundreds of Arab Israelis who protested the arrests, claiming the detentions were arbitrary and motivated by racism.

“Those who act against their own people should be used to mop up the floor,” she charged, adding that they “should fear” the local community’s reaction.

Initially, Zoabi argued her remarks did not amount to incitement, and claimed the charges against her were politically motivated as she had spoken out against the policy of arresting Arab protesters.

In August 2014, police recommended that Zoabi be put on trial for incitement, threats and abuse directed at a police officer. In June of 2015, Weinstein approved a criminal probe into the incident.

Zoabi has been the subject of previous investigations for incitement and has seen numerous failed attempts by fellow lawmakers to remove her from parliament.

Zoabi, a vociferous critic of the Israeli government and society, came under fire for taking part in the May 2010 flotilla to Gaza that ended in a deadly clash between pro-Palestinian activists and IDF troops. In 2014, the MK refused to use the label “terrorists” for those who abducted and killed three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank.

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