A shouting match erupted between far-right MKs and Arab and left-wing lawmakers in the Knesset Tuesday, disrupting an event titled “After 54 years: From Occupation to Apartheid.”
The event was hosted by MK Aida Touma-Sliman of the opposition Joint List party and MK Mossi Raz of Meretz, a party that is a member of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government.
Raz’s involvement was sure to raise hackles within the coalition, which was formed under the understanding that its rightist and leftist parties would avoid contentious issues in order not to rock the boat. One of the right-wing MKs who attended the event is the coalition’s Abir Kara of Bennett’s Yamina party.
During the event, representatives of various left-wing human rights groups presented reports about the situation in the West Bank since 1967. The organizations included B’Tselem, Adalah, Peace Now, Yesh Din, Gisha, Breaking the Silence and Human Rights Watch.
Religious Zionism’s extremist MK Itamar Ben Gvir attended the event and hurled insults at several Arab lawmakers, calling organizers Touma Sliman and Raz “terrorists” and “terror supporters” and shouting the same accusation at Joint List MKs Ofer Cassif and Ahmad Tibi.
Cassif retorted by saying: “Shut your mouth, you piece of shit, racist fascist.”
“Aida, you don’t condemn [it] when a soldier is murdered,” Ben Gvir shouted at Touma-Sliman. “You’re a terrorist, I’m willing to remove my [parliamentary] immunity, sue me. We’ll teach you what democracy is.”
Amichai Chikli, a rebel Yamina MK, labeled the event “a disgrace” and on Monday sent a letter asking the Knesset’s legal adviser and events department to prevent the participation of organizations he said were undermining Israel in the international arena.
“This is a serious act of political sabotage and it is unbearable that it should take place within the walls of the Knesset,” Chikli said.
Chikli said that he was most concerned about the involvement of Human Rights Watch, one of the world’s best-known rights groups, saying that the organization works for the delegitimization of Israel and should not be permitted to participate. HRW’s Omar Shakir, the New York-based rights group’s director for Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, was expelled from Israel in 2019 after a lengthy court battle when the country accused him of supporting boycotts of the Jewish state.
Authorities said at the time that Shakir’s expulsion was the first from inside Israel under a 2017 law allowing the deportation of foreigners who support a boycott. The move was condemned by international bodies, with the United Nations warning of a “shrinking space for human rights defenders to operate” in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.
When Shakir started talking via video at Tuesday’s event, Ben Gvir called out: “How can we let him speak here, in the Knesset?”
Earlier this year HRW said that Israel was guilty of the crimes of apartheid and persecution because of discriminatory policies toward Palestinians within its own borders and in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel strongly rejected the accusations.