The Knesset Ethics Committee on Wednesday reprimanded Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman for calling a fellow lawmaker, Arab Joint List MK Hanin Zoabi, a “terrorist.”
Liberman used the epithet in a Twitter post on June 4, and then again in a recent statement to the Ethics Committe in response to Zoabi’s complaint about the incident.
In its rebuke, the committee, chaired by Shas MK Yitzhak Vaknin, reiterated its longstanding opposition to the use of such terms, saying “there is no place in legitimate public discourse for such expressions to be directed personally toward elected officials by their colleagues.” The committee said the Yisrael Beytenu leader violated the Knesset’s ethics rules.
Zoabi didn’t mince words after the committee publicized its rebuke on Wednesday. “Mr. Liberman was reprimanded by the Ethics Committee. Racist supporters of apartheid, transfer, and shooting people deserve to be reprimanded. And those who warn and fight against murder and blockade and bombing a civilian population, they get expelled, silenced and face character assassination. Liberman’s actions won’t bring him to a hearing in the Knesset’s Ethics Committee, but to a hearing at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, because that’s where war crimes like his are judged.”
Liberman called Zoabi a terrorist in a June 4, 2018, tweet that was part of his party’s campaign to have Zoabi expelled from the Knesset over her past comments in support of the Gaza terror group Hamas, her labeling of IDF soldiers “murderers,” and other similar rhetoric.
“The terrorist Hanin Zoabi,” Liberman wrote in the tweet, “is in the Knesset and supporting terrorism against IDF soldiers and civilians in the state of Israel only because Knesset members from the Zionist Union, Yesh Atid and the Haredi parties are refusing to support [Yisrael Beytenu] MK Oded Forer’s bill to remove her from the Knesset under law.”
Liberman then asked readers to go to Forer’s website, where they would be able to compose letters to MKs urging them to back Zoabi’s expulsion.
Zoabi complained to the Ethics Committee about the post, accusing Liberman of criminal incitement against Arab lawmakers.
In his terse response to the committee, Liberman repeated his accusation, saying he would “cut to the chase: She’s a terrorist.”
Zoabi has herself been disciplined by the Ethics Committee, including in May, when it slapped her with one-week ban for accusing Israeli soldiers of “murdering” Palestinians.
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.
Right-wing lawmakers have long called for her to be permanently banned from the Knesset over her incendiary comments about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.