Arab party chair handed week-long Knesset ban for confrontation with police

Arab party chair handed week-long Knesset ban for confrontation with police

Ethics Committee censures Ayman Odeh for using ‘vulgar and offensive’ language against officer who blocked him from visiting injured activist

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Joint (Arab) List leader Ayman Odeh leads a faction meeting in the Knesset in Jerusalem on October 31, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Joint (Arab) List leader Ayman Odeh leads a faction meeting in the Knesset in Jerusalem on October 31, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Knesset Ethics Committee slapped a one-week ban on the Joint (Arab) List party’s chairman, Ayman Odeh, Monday for using “vulgar and offensive” language in a confrontation with a police officer in May.

The ban applies to all committee and plenary debates but will not prevent Odeh from voting.

The punishment comes following a complaint to the committee by Likud MKs Oren Hazan and Nava Boker about Odeh’s conduct at the Bnai Zion Medical Center in Haifa while he was visiting Arab Israeli activist ​Jafar Farah, who was being treated for a broken knee he sustained after his arrest at a demonstration against Israel’s response to protests along the Gaza border.

Farah said he sustained the injury when he was assaulted by a cop while already in police custody. Footage of his arrest the day prior shows Farah being led away in handcuffs and walking on his own.

Arab-Israeli NGO worker Jafar Farah, who alleges a police officer broke his knee after he was arrested. (Screen capture: Twitter)

Attempting to visit Farah, Odeh was caught on camera challenging a police officer at the hospital who blocked his way, calling him a “zero,” and asking him, “Who do you think you are?” He also used the slang epithet “kibinimat,” that is loosely translated as “for fuck’s sake.”

The committee found that “the language used by MK Odeh does not fall under the definition of sharp political arguments that may be worthy of criticism but is permitted under freedom of speech laws.”

Instead, “his language was vulgar and offensive and broke the ethics rules placed on parliament members,” according to a statement released by the disciplinary body.

Responding to the decision, Odeh slammed the committee, saying it had “become part of the efforts to silence dissenting voices.”

“I will continue to do my work as an elected official and I will demand my right to visit the injured, especially those attacked by police,” he added.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said after the incident that Odeh and his party members were “terrorists” who belong in jail.

“Every day that Ayman Odeh and his associates are free to walk around cursing at police officers is a failure of law enforcement authorities,” Liberman tweeted.

“Terrorists don’t belong in the Knesset, they belong in prison,” he said. “It’s time they pay a price for their actions.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman leads a faction meeting of his Yisrael Beytenu party at the Knesset on June 18, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“We cannot remain silent when Knesset members humiliate [police], harm them and turn them into a punching bag,” Boker, one of the two Likud MKs who filed a complaint against Odeh, tweeted at the time.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan wrote on Twitter that he had asked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to open a criminal investigation into Odeh for interfering with a police officer carrying out his duties, insulting a public official, violating a legal order and making threats.

Mandelblit’s office said Monday that a criminal investigation would not be opened against Odeh.

Join us!
A message from the Editor of Times of Israel
David Horovitz

The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.

We've achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.

Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.

Become a member of The Times of Israel Community
read more: