A lawmaker from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party said the news Thursday that a Joint List MK had been diagnosed with coronavirus was a “terror attack” by the predominantly Arab faction.
MK Fateen Mulla made the comment in a Likud WhatsApp group, responding to a message that all Knesset committee meetings were canceled for the day due to MK Sami Abou Shahadeh testing positive for COVID-19.
“This is a terror attack by the Joint [List] on the Knesset,” Mulla wrote, according to a screenshot of the message shared by Channel 12 news.
He added: “I was tested in Hadera. Hoping for good news.”
The comments were derided by Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi, who said on Twitter that Mulla was following in the footsteps of former Likud minister Ayoub Kara, who like Mulla is Druze and was known for his controversial statements.
Mulla later wished “full health” to Abou Shahadeh, while claiming his comment had been misconstrued by the media.
“This is a political ‘terror attack’ because parliament almost entirely halted operations due to the infection,” Mulla tweeted, without specifying who he held responsible. “I didn’t intend the interpretation that the instigating media rushed to put out.”
He added, “I’m here for brotherly love and solidarity.”
Mulla first entered the Knesset last April but lost his seat after Likud dropped in size following the elections in September. He returned to the Knesset when Likud gained seats during the third elections in March.
Abou Shahadeh’s diagnosis forced the Knesset to suspend most activities, with hundreds of staff members told not to come to work unless necessary.
Abou Shahadeh, 44, had entered quarantine two days ago after his driver was diagnosed with the pathogen.
Fellow Joint List MKs Tibi, Osama Saadi, Heba Yazbak, Sundus Saleh and Iman Khatib-Yasin have all tested negative for the virus, according to the Kan public broadcaster.
In an interview with Kan, Abou Shahadeh said he had been in contact with thousands of people.
“I went to comfort mourners and also to family events and demonstrations,” he said. “I was on committees, in the plenum and even the cafeteria.”
He later told Army Radio he had followed social distancing and other guidelines against COVID-19.
The Walla news site reported he paid a visit to the mourning tent set up by the family of Iyad Halak, a 32-year-old East Jerusalem man with special needs who was shot to death by police on Saturday.
Pictures of him visiting the family and at a protest showed him not wearing a mask as he stood shoulder to shoulder with others.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) June 4, 2020
Abou Shahadeh lives in Tel Aviv, where he previously served on the municipal council. He entered the Knesset in October 2019 as a member of the Joint List’s Balad faction.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous Knesset members have entered quarantine after being exposed to a carrier of the virus, though previously only United Torah Judaism leader Yaakov Litzman had been diagnosed with the virus.
Abou Shahadeh’s announcement came amid a sharp increase in new virus cases in recent days, apparently centering around schools across the country.