A large commotion broke out on the floor of the Knesset on Wednesday afternoon after MK Hanin Zoabi (Joint Arab List) said regarding the Turkey reconciliation deal, “The person who murdered is the one who needs to apologize. You need to apologize.”
MKs Mickey Levy (Yes Atid), Micky Rosenthal (Zionist Union), Basel Ghattas (Joint Arab List), and Zehava Galon (Meretz) were removed from the plenum. Levy yelled at Zoabi, “(You) filth!” During the brouhaha, visiting IDF soldiers were observing in the gallery.
The turmoil mounted after Zoabi finished speaking. She asked to return to the podium to apologize, but she then repeated her earlier sentiments: “As long as there is a blockade (on Gaza), I will object to the blockade, and there’s a need to organize more flotillas.”
MK Oren Hazan (Likud) confronted her, “Your friends are murderers; you’re complicit in terrorism. You’ve got some nerve. Time’s up. You don’t use that podium to speak against IDF soldiers.” Zoabi replied, “You committed murder! Murderers! Shut up!”
Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) insisted that Zoabi cease, and the inflamed orator answered, “Come and hit me, Aliza; come and hit me!”
At this point, Levy physically approached the podium and tried to get Zoabi to stop speaking. Some other parliamentarians yelled at her, “Liar”, “Filth, ” and “You belong in Gaza.”
Hazan yelled at her, “You support terrorism; you encourage terrorism; you have blood on your hands.” Hamad Amar (Yisrael Beytenu), who was chairing the session, ordered Zoabi to rescind her inflammatory speech: “If you don’t apologize, I’ll remove you.” Zoabi replied, “The person who murdered is the one who needs to apologize. Nine activists were murdered; you need to apologize and end the blockade on Gaza.”
Levy yelled, “Scum!” Amar ordered the Knesset’s ushers to remove Zoabi from the plenum, crying out, “Remove Member of Knesset Zoabi! Take her outside!” When she resisted, the ushers employed physical force. Levy came a few meters from Zoabi and yelled, “Scum outside! Scum!”
MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) was also removed from the plenum after saying, “This entire Knesset is trash.”
After Zoabi was removed, Amar said, “Member of Knesset Zoabi lied to me. She said to me, ‘I want to apologize.’ She told me explicitly. She lied to the chairman of a Knesset session.”
Minister Ofir Akunis (Likud) later delivered the government’s position on the incident: “This stage, a symbol of the sovereignty of the Jewish people in its country, has become a stage of insane incitement. One neo-Fascist (Zoabi) whose only desire in life is to destroy Israel as the state of the Jewish people. She, together with MK (Jamal) Zahalka, the students of the spy Azmi Bishara—and also a traitor—Hanin Zoabi is a terrorist—a terrorist!—that participated in the terrorist flotilla on the Marmara, who prevented the treatment of the wounded, who incited against the State of Israel and its existence as the Jewish State. We are proud of our soldiers. We salute our soldiers. We are proud of the force that gained control of the Marmara and prevented the breach of the blockade on Gaza; and with the agreement (with Turkey), the blockade on Gaza will continue.”
Akunis said further, “At the end of the 18th Knesset, I went to the Central Elections Committee and initiated the disqualification of MK Zoabi from serving in the Knesset. Somebody who works against Israel in an armed conflict can’t be in the Knesset, the statute says, and she was disqualified! I say this with a heavy sorrow: an unprecedented historic mistake by persons whom I respect, of an institution that I appreciate, the Supreme Court, returned her by voiding the decision of the Central Elections Committee, which is a Knesset decision. Then, as well, Meretz representatives voted of course against the removal, against the disqualification. There’s no reason to see MK Zoabi in the 21st Knesset.”
Coalition Chairman and Likud Faction Chairman MK David Bitan said, “What we saw today is the continuation of the provocation of one member of Knesset who does it all the time. She lives off it and thus damages the coexistence between us and the Arabs. We need to make sure that she doesn’t stay in the Knesset. She doesn’t represent you like she should; stop backing her up. You can’t call IDF soldiers ‘murderers, ‘ and we won’t permit it.”
At the conclusion of the debate, Galon, who is also the head of Meretz, said to Amar, “Shame for you who ran this meeting, shame and disgrace; be ashamed.”
Shortly after the incident, MKs Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) and Amir Ohana (Likud) filed complaints against Zoabi with the Knesset’s Ethics Committee. They claimed that this was not the first time that Zoabi’s behavior was inappropriate and that she degraded the dignity of the legislature. The committee is expected to meet and discuss the details of the incident.
According to the Knesset’s rules, the maximum penalty that can be imposed on one of its members who radically exceeded accepted behavior is to remove her from the plenum and Knesset committees for six months. Indeed, this punishment was meted out to Zoabi after she participated in the Mavi Marmara flotilla. She was also censured in the same manner for a four-month period for having met with terrorists’ families and joining them in a moment of memorial silence; this punishment ended only on June 9.
In extreme cases, the committee can also withhold wages for one month.
Later on Wednesday, Zoabi released a statement to the media in which she continued in her line of accusations: “The agreement with Turkey constitutes an admission of one dry fact: The soldiers of Shayetet 13 murdered nine Turkish civilians aboard the Mavi Marmara, and the person who sent the soldiers and who now signed the deal will pay the price for that.”