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Arab MKs hit back at ‘fascist’ criticism over meeting with terrorists’ families

Zoabi, Zahalka and Ghattas under fire for talks with relatives of Palestinian attackers, call for release of bodies

Joint (Arab) List MKs Hanin Zoabi (center),  Jamal Zahalka (right) and Basel Ghattas (center left, behind Zoabi) speak with the press in Jerusalem on February 17, 2015 (Hadas Parush/FLASH90)
Joint (Arab) List MKs Hanin Zoabi (center), Jamal Zahalka (right) and Basel Ghattas (center left, behind Zoabi) speak with the press in Jerusalem on February 17, 2015 (Hadas Parush/FLASH90)

Three Arab MKs on Friday defended their meeting earlier in the week with the relatives of Palestinian terrorists who carried out attacks against Israelis in recent months. The meeting drew condemnation from across the Israeli political spectrum.

“We are defending national and human dignity. It is our duty and our right,” MK Hanin Zoabi wrote in Arabic on Facebook on Friday. “The real crime is holding onto bodies. It is our duty to do our utmost to get the bodies released.”

The lawmaker was referring to Israel’s policy of delaying the return of bodies of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks on Israelis, in an effort to prevent their funerals from becoming a source of further incitement to violence.

The relatives asked the MKs to help them pressure the government to release the terrorists’ bodies for burial. The request by the families was transferred to the Public Security Ministry, a Balad party spokeswoman said.

Zoabi attended Tuesday’s meeting along with her Joint (Arab) List colleagues Jamal Zahalka and Basel Ghattas. All three are members of the Balad faction, which united with two other Arab parties before the March 2015 elections in order to guarantee that the faction passed a new, higher electoral threshold.

Ghattas also took to Facebook on Friday to defend their actions, accusing Israel of “fascism,” Channel 2 television reported.

“When the trumpets of fascism incite against us, it means that we are protecting human values,” he wrote. “We condemn the incitement against party members [as they] perform their duty to help families to return the bodies of their children, which the Israeli authorities hold contrary to international laws and values.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Knesset on December 30, 2015, flanked by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Knesset on December 30, 2015, flanked by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said Thursday that they are jointly lodging an unprecedented complaint to the Knesset’s Ethics Committee against the three, saying the meeting constituted incitement and “encouragement to murder.”

“It is inconceivable that at a time when innocent citizens are being slaughtered on the streets of Israel, these MKs go to console the families of the murderers and with unbelievable insolence dare to bring the families’ demands to the government,” Edelstein said Thursday, soon after news of the meeting was reported.

The Knesset’s Ethics Committee is not bound to discuss a complaint filed by any MK if the complainant chooses to make it public, as Netanyahu and Edelstein have.

Earlier Thursday, Netanyahu called the MKs “not worthy to serve” in Israel’s parliament.

“Members of Knesset who go to comfort the families of terrorists who murdered Israelis do not deserve to be in the Israeli Knesset. I have asked the Speaker of the Knesset to examine what steps can be taken against them,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

Haim Haviv, 78, was killed Tuesday October 13, 2015 in a terror attack on a bus in Jerusalem's Armon Hanatziv neighborhood. His wife Shoshana was hospitalized in serious condition. (Courtesy)
Haim Haviv, 78, was killed Tuesday October 13, 2015 in a terror attack on a bus in Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv neighborhood. His wife Shoshana was hospitalized in serious condition. (Courtesy)

The three Joint List lawmakers met the relatives of the terrorists Tuesday, a day before Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas hosted them in his Ramallah office.

A Palestinian organization representing families of “shahids” [martyrs] invited all lawmakers from the Joint List, a list comprising all Arab parties in the Knesset, to meet in Jerusalem. Three MKs from Balad, one of the parties comprising the list, attended.

The MKs met with the father of Baha Alian, a Palestinian who was part of a two-man team that killed Israelis Haim Haviv, Alon Govberg and Richard Lakin in Jerusalem in October, and with relatives of other terrorists.

Some Israeli reports said that the meeting began with a moment of silence for the “martyrs.”

Zionist Union, the largest party in the opposition, said in a statement that the “visit by Balad MKs with families of terrorists encourages more terrorism and killing of innocents.”

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid called the meeting “a show of hatred and subversion against the State of Israel.”

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