MK demands probe into lawmaker’s call for revoking Arab MKs’ citizenship
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MK demands probe into lawmaker’s call for revoking Arab MKs’ citizenship

Omer Bar-Lev wants Ethics Committee to investigate Likud politician’s ‘racist and dangerous’ remarks, but may have doomed his bid by publicizing it

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Labor MK Omer Bar-Lev speaks to the press outside of a session of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in the Knesset on May 20, 2014 (Flash90)
Labor MK Omer Bar-Lev speaks to the press outside of a session of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in the Knesset on May 20, 2014 (Flash90)

A Labor party politician called for the Knesset’s ethics committee on Thursday to investigate a Likud MK for controversial, inciting remarks he made the previous day about Arab members of Knesset and to ensure “that it does not happen a second time.”

During a discussion about a flotilla making its way to Gaza in a bid to break Israel’s blockade around the Strip, Deputy Interior Minister Yaron Mazuz said he would act to revoke the citizenship of any politician who supports protest flotillas and told Arab politicians that Israel was “doing them a favor” by allowing them to be in the Knesset.

Mazuz’s comments drew swift and sharp criticism from both Arab and Jewish members of Knesset.

On Thursday, MK Omer Bar-Lev, the former head of the elite Sayeret Matkal special forces, filed a request with the ethics committee over the outburst, calling it “racist and dangerous.”

“When a deputy minister attacks an entire segment of the population from the podium of the Knesset we must denounce his statement vigorously,” he said.

In his letter to the ethics committee, Bar-Lev wrote, “Every MK has the right to vote this way or that on any subject that comes up for a vote. However, there is no room for the denigration of an entire section of the population, including the Arabs of Israel, or the questioning of their right to citizenship and equality.”

Bar-Lev posted a copy of his letter on Facebook, however, which is in direct opposition to the Knesset’s bylaws. According to the Knesset’s Rules of Procedure, “the conversations of the ethics committee… the documents, protocols and decisions on the subject are secret.”

By making his petition against Mazuz public, Bar-Lev may have ruined his chances of having his claims investigated, as the committee chairman Yitzhak Vaknin could throw out his request for violating the rules of procedure.

During a stormy Knesset session Wednesday, Mazuz told controversial Arab MK Hanin Zoabi, “You are the first of those who should hand back their identity card. We are doing you a favor that you are even sitting here.

“Terrorists don’t sit here. You are in a democratic state — respect the state. Anyone who acts against the state through terror has no right to be here. It is unacceptable for members of this institution to take part in terror flotillas against the State of Israel,” he said.

Likud MK Yaron Mazuz speaks in the Knesset on June 24, 2015 (screen capture: Channel 2)
Likud MK Yaron Mazuz speaks in the Knesset on June 24, 2015 (screen capture: Channel 2)

Mazuz was referring to Zoabi’s participation in the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla to Gaza, and to fellow Joint (Arab) List MK Basel Ghattas’s declaration earlier this week that he would sail with a flotilla hoping to break Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip in the coming days.

Ghattas’s announcement was roundly condemned by Jewish MKs across the political spectrum. The Joint List defended Ghattas, saying the flotilla is a humanitarian gesture to the residents of Gaza, who live in a “massive prison.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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