The Knesset’s ethics committee on Tuesday reprimanded Deputy Interior Minister Yaron Mazuz (Likud) over remarks claiming Israel was doing Arab MKs a favor by allowing them to serve in parliament.
The committee determined Mazuz’s comments on June 24 during a debate on the controversial Citizenship Law “bordered on racism against the entire Arab population, and undermined the very legitimacy of Arab MKs’ service in Knesset and their being equal rights citizens in the State of Israel.”
Mazuz had accused Arab MKs present at the discussion of supporting terrorism, and demanded they return their ID cards.
“You are the first of those who should hand back their identity card. We are doing you a favor that you are even sitting here,” Mazuz told MK Hanin Zoabi (Joint List) during the stormy Knesset session.
A day later, MK Omer Bar-Lev (Zionist Union) filed a request with the ethics committee over the outburst, calling it “racist and dangerous.”
Mazuz later rejected the accusations, claiming his remarks were “distorted by the media.”
“I recognize and cherish all of Israel’s citizens – Jews, Druze, Circassians, Christians and Muslims all the same,” he told the committee. “I spoke out only against those who act against the state of Israel and its citizens, and those who engage in terrorism.”
He added that his comments were directed at Zoabi, who had participated in a flotilla to the Gaza Strip “that sought to hurt Israel and strengthen Hamas’s reign of terror.”
But the panel rejected his account of the events, stressing that his remarks were particularly severe in light of the fact that he was addressing the plenum on behalf of the government, “creating a false pretense that he was representing its position.”
Mazuz was let off with a reprimand as it was the first time a complaint had been lodged against him and since this is his first term in the Knesset, the committee said.
Zoabi said the Mazuz’s punishment was “too light” in view of his “dangerous” comments.
“His status, and the fact that his words are a clear continuation of his prime minister’s delegitimization policy toward Israel’s Palestinian community, sends an unequivocal message to the Israeli public: The Arabs who are still here should be thankful for not having been kicked out of here,” she said in a statement.