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Balad MKs banned from Knesset debates for meeting terrorists’ families

Last week, the three MKs met in east Jerusalem with 10 families of terrorists, whose bodies police have declined to give them for burial; ‘If Israel wasn’t occupying West Bank, Palestinian kids wouldn’t need to kill Jews’

Israel Arab Party Balad - Hanin Zoabi,   Jamal Zahalka and Azmi Bashara.

Three Arab-Israeli lawmakers were suspended on Monday from speaking in parliament as punishment for supporting families of Palestinian assailants killed by security forces after they attacked Israelis.

The Knesset Ethics Committee ruled that Balad party members Hanin Zoabi and Basel Ghattas would be barred from plenum and committee business for four months and Jamal Zahalka for two months, but they will be able to vote.

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“We are not prepared to accept a situation where Knesset members support the families of those who murdered Israeli civilians and stand to attention to the memory of those who murdered our children, ” Netanyahu said in parliament.

Attorney-General Avihai Mandelblit has also called for a police investigation against the three.

Last week, the three visited the families of Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces in incidents, including one on a bus in Jerusalem last year in which three people were killed. They were accused of standing as a mark of respect for the attackers, but Zahalka denied this and said they were praying.

In an interview with Army Radio on Tuesday, Ghattas said that the parliamentarians were “simply carrying out their obligations as public servants.”

“I have a very busy schedule in which I serve the Arab public, ” he said. “I’m responsible for the Joint List’s economic team, so now I’ll have more time [to deal with that].”

“For months, almost every one of the Joint List MKs has been working to retrieve the bodies, ” Ghattas said. “Less than two weeks ago, we met [Public Security Minister Gilad] Erdan and we told him that the families have agreed to the authorities’ conditions in accepting the bodies. He told us that that wasn’t the information that he had, and that we should bring him more accurate information.”

Ghattas said that he was acting as a mediator between the families and the state.

The lawmaker also acknowledged that the participants at the meeting stood up and read an Islamic tract in honor of “the martyrs of Palestine.”

“We went to the meeting that was supposed to be closed and business-oriented because we knew that if word got out it would do damage to the cause, ” Ghattas said. “At one part of the meeting we stood up and read a passage [from the Koran] in honor of all of the martyrs of Palestine. It’s not meant to encourage [violence] or to provoke. It was more of a historic custom.”

The Balad deputy told Army Radio that the moment of silence was not unlike the custom observed on Israel’s holidays in honor of fallen soldiers and Holocaust survivors.

“The moment of silence gave us a very strong feeling, a feeling that we are a nation like any other, ” Ghattas said. “There is no nation that recognizes and honors its victims like the Jewish people. These are noble customs. The terminology on both sides is different, so a murderer to you is a victim of the occupation in the eyes of my people.”

“If [Israel] wasn’t occupying the West Bank, these children would not have to kill Jews, ” the lawmaker said. “Both the government of Israel and Gilad Erdan should want to compromise on the issue of releasing the bodies.”

Also on Monday, coalition party leaders approved in principal a proposal by Netanyahu to allow 90 MKs to vote to suspend a colleague.




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