The Joint (Arab) List faction reacted furiously Monday to what it branded a “miserable, anti-democratic” decision after the Knesset’s Ethics Committee suspended three of its lawmakers for meeting with the relatives of terrorists killed while attacking Israelis.
Hanin Zoabi and Basel Ghattas were suspended for four months, while Jamal Zahalka received a two-month ban. All three lawmakers are from the Balad party of the faction.
The Joint List said in a statement that it rejects the Ethics Committee’s decision “through and through,” and “condemns the campaign of incitement orchestrated by [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu,” a campaign “which led to the miserable, anti-democratic and unethical decision by the committee.”
The MKs met last Tuesday with Palestinians seeking the return of bodies of their relatives, which were still being held by Israeli authorities.
“Even after this suspension, we continue to demand to release the bodies,” the party statement said.
The MKs, the statement continued, “have paid a political price for a moral and humane stance, and we will continue to fight against a policy of racism and fascism and for real equality and real democracy, that Netanyahu is trying to destroy with all his might.”
The three MKs also separately issued videotaped statements decrying the suspension.
Zoabi said the committee’s decision had been predetermined and was the “fruit of Netanyahu’s incitement.” The firebrand lawmaker also accused the prime minister of leading “a wave of fascism and everyone is following in his path.”
“There is a politicization of the [Ethics] committee, where colleagues of mine who are not supposed to judge me, judge me according to their ideology,” she said. “This time, the true face of the Zionist left was also exposed, the true face of Meretz was exposed.”
Zoabi was apparently referring to the criticism of Tuesday’s meeting by Meretz MK Ilan Gilon, as well as that from lawmakers of the Zionist Union, an amalgamation of Hatnuah and Labor.
Zahalka and Ghattas echoed the comments by Zoabi, also accusing the prime minister of driving the ban.
“There are no ethics, just politics — politics in the worst sense of the word — by Netanyahu,” Zahalka said. “We will appeal to international courts over the return of the bodies, and also regarding our suspension from the Knesset.”
Ghattas called Netanyahu “the high priest of incitement.”
Dov Khenin, a Jewish MK from Hadash, another Joint List party, said the committee’s decision showed that “incitement against Arabs is Netanyahu’s strategy to remain in office.”
Revital Sweid of the Zionist Union said the meeting with terrorists’ families “touched on the deepest emotions in Israeli society – bereavement and terrorism. With their actions they put wind in the sails of terrorism, especially when they observed a moment of silence for the terrorists.”
But MK Avigdor Liberman, head of the hawkish opposition party Yisrael Beytenu, said the Ethics Committee’s penalty was “a joke.”
“Instead of giving them the maximum penalty, which is removal from Knesset discussion for six months and withholding their pay, the Ethics Committee made this whole affair a parody. It decided on an non-serious punishment that only shows a flaccid powerlessness,” Liberman said.