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Knesset revokes MK's privileges over flotilla support

July 14, 2010 9:28 A.M. (Updated: July 15, 2010 9:57 A.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an/Agencies - Israel's parliament revoked the privileges of Palestinian Knesset member Haneen Zoabi on Tuesday for her participation in May's Gaza-bound aid flotilla attempting to break Israel's blockade.

Following the announcement, Zoabi told Ma'an radio that she was expecting the majority of her peers to vote in favor of invalidating her diplomatic passport and revoking her right to receive funding for legal expenses.

"Israel began to incriminate Arab citizens and accuse them of treason, and what I am facing is part of a collective procedure which started with Azmi Bishara, who was accused of treason and espionage, then Sheikh Raed Salah who was sentenced to five months in jail," she said.

Bishara was accused of spying for Syria after he visited the state for a funeral. In response, Israel stripped the MK of his privileges and passed the so-called Bishara law, allowing for the revocation of diplomatic privileges for parliament members who visit enemy states.

After 34 MKs voted in favor, a violent brawl was nearly started between Arab and Jewish MKs after the hearing, the Israeli daily Yedioth Aharonoth reported. Zoabi clapped when the Knesset's decision was announced, and MK Yoel Hasson drew close to her and said "You will soon be a former MK."

Hasson also joined MK Carmel Shama in answering Arab MKs, who were shouting cries of "fascists" towards the Jewish members.

"It is no wonder that a state which denies a million Arab citizens their basic rights is also revoking the rights of an MK who faithfully represents her voters," Zoabi said after hearing the decision, the daily reported.

"This is a dangerous precedent for the Arab public, and a hostile message. Anyway the Knesset imposes limits on our parliamentary and public activity through racial legislation, and privileges would not have lessened these limitations."

The MK added she would appeal to legal and international organizations "in order to curb the vengeful impulses of the automatic majority in the Knesset."

Zoabi was on board the Mavi Marmara, one of six aid boats heading for Gaza, which was raided by Israeli forces on 31 May, killing nine passengers in international waters.

Shortly after, MK Anastassia Michaeli of Yisrael Beiteinu, handed Zoabi an Iranian passport with her picture, Yedioth Aharonoth reported. She was thereafter removed from the plenum.

Before she left Michaeli told Zoabi, "Most of the Arabs in Israel are smart enough and faithful enough to the state to open their eyes after your incitement. You do not represent them."

Earlier Tuesday, Zoabi was present at Salah's final ruling, where she told Ma'an that the five-month conviction for spitting on a border guard was "unjustified punishment."

"This is an exaggeration, and not an objective ruling ... Israel treats Palestinians not as citizens but as enemies. This hostile dealing comes across all institutions, not just politically or in the Knesset, but also the court system, which is supposed to protect the rights of its citizens," Zoabi said.

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