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Bedlam in Knesset as Arab MK brands IDF soldiers ‘murderers’ for Gaza flotilla raid

Several outraged MKs charge toward podium as Hanin Zoabi speaks out; Zionist Union MK calls for her suspension; Likud MK wants her banned

Joint (Arab) List MK Hanin Zoabi is led out of the Knesset plenum after a row over her comments on the Israel-Turkey reconciliation agreement on June 29, 2016 (screen capture: Knesset Channel)
Joint (Arab) List MK Hanin Zoabi is led out of the Knesset plenum after a row over her comments on the Israel-Turkey reconciliation agreement on June 29, 2016 (screen capture: Knesset Channel)

MK Hanin Zoabi on Wednesday set off a political firestorm after branding IDF soldiers involved in a May 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla “murderers,” and demanding they apologize.

The Joint (Arab) List lawmaker, who took part in the flotilla from Turkey that tried to break the Israeli blockade on the Hamas-run coastal enclave, was vociferously berated in the Knesset plenum by lawmakers who attempted to approach the podium and have her removed.

Nine Turkish nationals, including one with American citizenship, were killed in clashes that erupted when IDF commandos were violently attacked by those on board the Mavi Marmara, the final ship in the flotilla, and opened fire. A tenth Turkish national died of his wounds years later. A number of Israeli soldiers were also injured in the raid. Zoabi was on board the Turkish-flagged vessel at the time.

“I demand an apology for all the political activists on the Marmara and an apology to MK Hanin Zoabi, for inciting against her for six years and hounding her. You all need to apologize, all of the members of Knesset here,” Zoabi said. “Those who murdered need to apologize, you need to apologize.”

Zoabi’s comments came a day after Israel signed a deal with Turkey to restore ties, after years of frosty relations exacerbated by the raid. The deal provides for Israel to pay Turkey $20 million compensation over the Marmara raid, a point objected to by some Israeli politicians.

Zoabi’s statements were met by howls from several members of Knesset, including MK Micky Levi (Yesh Atid), who charged toward the podium in outrage and attempted to forcibly remove Zoabi.

“Your friends are murderers, you’re a partner to terrorism,” Likud MK Oren Hazan screamed at her. “You’re out of line. Don’t use this podium to speak against IDF soldiers!”

“You murdered! Shut up!” Zoabi replied.

Yesh Atid MK Aliza Lavie called on Zoabi to knock it off, to which Zoabi replied: “Come knock me out.”

Yisrael Beytenu MK Hamad Amar, who chaired the plenary session, said Zoabi “lied to me.”

Zoabi requested permission to speak because she wanted to apologize, said Amar. “She lied.”

She was eventually led out of the plenum, escorted by security, along with Levi, Zionist Union MK Micky Rosenthal and Meretz party leader Zehava Galon.

Joint (Arab) List MK Hanin Zoabi, center, rows with fellow lawmakers in the Knesset plenum over her comments on the Israel-Turkey reconciliation agreement on June 29, 2016 (screen capture: Knesset Channel)
Joint (Arab) List MK Hanin Zoabi, center, is confronted by fellow lawmakers in the Knesset plenum over her comments on the Israel-Turkey reconciliation agreement on June 29, 2016 (screen capture: Knesset Channel)

But even after her departure Zoabi’s remarks continued to be met with enraged responses by other lawmakers.

“IDF soldiers are the children of all of us, to call them murderers is an abomination,” opposition leader Isaac Herzog wrote on Twitter. “Another reason why we ought not to have agreed to compensate those who attacked the soldiers.”

Fellow Zionist Union MK Nahman Shai called on the Knesset’s ethics committee to suspend Zoabi.

Likud MK and Coalition Chairman David Bitan said he would put forward a law to bar Zoabi from the Knesset.

“She creates provocations regularly, and we can’t continue with this ritual,” he told Army Radio. “She should be a martyr, but not in the Knesset. She doesn’t interest us, we are interested in her not sitting in the Knesset and making provocations.”

Zoabi has refused to apologize for her comments.

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