The Knesset Ethics Committee on Wednesday slapped a one week ban on controversial lawmaker Hanin Zoabi after the Joint (Arab) List MK accused Israeli soldiers of “murdering” Palestinians.
The request to ban her was brought by Likud MK Oren Hazan, who himself has been banned from parliamentary activity for six months over a series of complaints over intimidation of fellow MKs.
The incident at hand took place when Zoabi was attending a meeting of the Knesset Education, Culture and Sports Committee on February 12, in the run-up to the first reading of a bill that could bar left-wing groups from schools. The bill, which empowers the education minister to ban organizations critical of the Israeli military from entering schools passed its first reading in the Knesset on February 26.
During the committee meeting, Zoabi said, “A murderer is someone who murders once in his life or who murders every day, so the army which murders sometimes, not every day… Haven’t you heard of Palestinian youths who’ve been murdered? Who murders the Palestinians in the occupied territories?”
Zoabi wrote to the ethics committee that she had indeed said there were IDF soldiers who were “murderers” of Palestinians, that it was part of her right to free speech to say so, and that she would be happy to provide information about “a large number of cases of murder of Palestinians by soldiers.”
After viewing video footage of Zoabi’s comments at the meeting, the ethics committee decided that use of word “murderers” for soldiers acting in the name of the state could not be defended within the framework of freedom of political expression for Knesset members, and that it therefore contravened the Knesset’s ethics rules.
The decision to ban the MK for a week, at the start of the Knesset’s summer sitting, was taken partly because it was not the first time Zoabi has been found guilty of contravening House ethics rules.
In July 2014, the committee banned her for six months after she said that the killers of three Israeli teens were not terrorists. The Supreme Court rejected her appeal to overturn the suspension.
The latest ban applies to all committee and plenary debates but will not prevent Zoabi from voting.