Hostage's relative to Likud MK: How can you sleep at night?

Hostage families butt heads with MKs at raucous Knesset committee debates

Likud firebrand Gotliv says rallies ‘destroying Israel’ after hostage’s mother slams her for vilifying them; Otzma Yehudit lawmaker walks out of room while relative speaks

Einav Zangauker (second right), whose son Matan is held hostage in Gaza, argues with Likud MK Tally Gotliv (left) at the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, in Jerusalem, May 20, 2024. (KnessetTV screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Einav Zangauker (second right), whose son Matan is held hostage in Gaza, argues with Likud MK Tally Gotliv (left) at the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, in Jerusalem, May 20, 2024. (KnessetTV screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

While anti-government protests raged outside, the relatives of hostages held by Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip clashed with lawmakers in Knesset committee meetings Monday, accusing them of not doing enough to free their loved ones and calling out alleged mistreatment by the authorities and politicians.

In one incident at the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, firebrand Likud MK Tally Gotliv clashed with representatives of the hostages, charging that demonstrations calling for an immediate deal to free their loved ones were destroying the country.

Einav Zangauker, whose son Matan is captive in Gaza, lashed out at Gotliv for posts on social media in which the latter had labeled protesters “anarchists,” saying they were “destroying the country” and comparing them to Hamas’s Nukhba unit, which carried out the October 7 massacre.

“How can she sit here in this committee and not apologize to me,” she said at the meeting, which took place as the legislature returned to session after its spring recess.

“I never brought up your name,” Gotliv responded. “Your protests are destroying the State of Israel,” she added, in reference to demonstrations calling for an immediate deal to release the captives.

“Your protests are broadcast on Al Jazeera,” Gotliv continued, referencing the Qatar-based network recently banned in Israel.

In March, Gotliv berated a representative of a bereaved family for criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset, sparking a heated argument with opposition lawmakers.

Earlier during Monday’s meeting, Zangauker decried police brutality against hostages’ families during their demonstrations.

“The violence we experience when we take to public areas is unbelievable. Beatings, choking, kicking. We come home after spending a few hours at the emergency room in the hospital,” she said, adding that it was difficult for her to bring her daughters, who suffer from muscular dystrophy, to the protests.

She demanded that National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir stop “coddling” police officers who use violence against protesters, and blasted the authorities for arresting and investigating activists while her son was being “abandoned” in Gaza.

In an earlier incident, while Shahar Mor Zahiro, nephew of hostage Avraham Munder, was speaking, far-right Otzma Yehudit MK Limor Son Har-Melech interrupted him to say that “there are soldiers dying.”

“I asked not to be interrupted,” Mor Zahiro replied, while Zangauker said, “I have a son who is held hostage.”

Son Har-Melech then left the room amid shouting and cries of “Aren’t you ashamed?” Committee chair Simcha Rothman called a break in the session, asserting that such arguments were a “prize for the enemy.”

Outside the committee meeting, Yifat Calderon, the cousin of hostage Ofer Calderon, confronted Likud MK Keti Shitrit, asking her, “How can you sleep at night” while her relative has been in captivity for 227 days.

“Oh, come on,” Shitrit said as she walked off, annoyed. “Your goal right now is to make a video and insult me. It’s not appropriate. If you want to speak to me honestly, come with me.”

Screaming at lawmakers during a Finance Committee meeting, Mor Shoham, the brother of hostage Tal Shoham, blamed the government for his sibling’s continued captivity and warned he would “pursue” them if any harm came to his brother.

“Did you eat? Did you drink? Did you relax? Did you put your kids to sleep? Did you bring your kids to school? These are very basic activities that my brother hasn’t been able to do for eight months. And I don’t know how to speak calmly and I don’t know how to speak quietly. I’m fed up,” he wailed as protesters stood nearby with a banner stating “The recess is over and the hostages are still there.”

“I’m fed up because if something happens to my brother I will pursue, day by day, each and every one of you. And I’m not afraid to say that. Two and a half months you sat in recess and the hostages — what happened to the hostages?” he continued. “More hostages died. My brother is suffering… every day.”

“The one who didn’t protect us is the State of Israel. The one who didn’t protect the soldiers here is the State of Israel,” he declared.

Zangauker also appeared at the Finance Committee, accusing the lawmakers of focusing on economic issues instead of figuring out a way to bring her son home.

“If I had a way to give Matan and the other hostages information today, I would tell them this is what the Finance Committee is dealing with. Not returning them home, not ending the war, not saving soldiers’ lives,” she said.

Instead, lawmakers were working on “a quota for foreign workers so that the construction industry will flourish.”

“And what about the construction industry in the Gaza Strip when you conquer it? Are you already working on building plans there?” she quipped, likely referencing far-right aspirations to build settlements in Gaza after the war.

Before the Knesset recess, relatives of the hostages appeared at the beginning of many committee meetings and engaged in high-profile protests and arguments with lawmakers, culminating in the smearing of yellow paint in the plenum during the final session on April 3.

Speaking with The Times of Israel on Sunday, Udi Goren, the cousin of hostage Tal Haim, said that during the new Knesset session “we will be seeing the families of the hostages going to the Knesset at least once a week and appearing in the committees to make sure that nothing gets done and no topic is dealt with before speaking about the hostages.”

Goren noted that the families were also advocating for specific legislative initiatives to help the hostages. One such bill, which was brought up for discussion in the Labor and Welfare Committee over the recess, aims to increase the stipend paid to returned hostages and to automatically recognize them as suffering from PTSD.

It is believed that 124 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November, and four hostages were released prior to that. Three hostages have been rescued by troops alive, and the bodies of 16 hostages have been recovered, including those of three mistakenly killed by the military.

The IDF has confirmed the deaths of 37 of those still held by Hamas, citing intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza. One more person is listed as missing since October 7, and their fate is still unknown.

Hamas is also holding the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014, as well as two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are both thought to be alive after entering the Strip of their own accord in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

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