How Israel liberates Arab women, of their rights

July 14, 2010

In News The Israel-Palestine Conflict

Washington – The Knesset voted Tuesday to revoke diplomatic privileges from Palestinian-Israeli MK Hanin Zoabi over her participation in the May 31 flotilla, Haaretz reported.

With a 34-16 vote in favor of the measure, Zoabi loses three main privileges afforded all members of the Knesset. Most importantly, Zoabi will be barred from leaving the country, which supporters of the measure say will prevent her from fleeing charges that might be brought against her over her actions.

Zoabi denounced the vote, accusing her fellow lawmakers of acting purely out of vengeance. “It’s not surprising that a country that strips the fundamental rights of its Arab citizens would revoke the privileges of a Knesset member who loyally represents her electorate.”

Zoabi represents the predominantly Palestinian Balad party and was the first woman representative for her party.

Zoabi continued her condemnation, saying the vote represented a dangerous precedent for Israel’s Palestinian citizens. She also accused Israeli legislators of implementing racist laws against the country’s minority Palestinian population.

“In a civilized country, the people who incite against and threaten [me] would be punished and have sanctions imposed against them,” Zoabi said in the report. “When you threaten the Arab MKs and the Arabs’ protectors, you threaten democracy and co-existence between Jews and Arabs.”

MK Yariv Levin (Likud), chairman of the committee that voted to rescind Zoabi’s privileges, defamed Zoabi for her actions. “You have no place in the Israeli Knesset, you are unworthy of holding an Israeli ID and you embarrass the citizens of Israel, the Knesset, the Arab population and your family,” Levin said.

Another lawmaker, MK Anastassia Michaeli (Yisrael Beiteinu), confronted Zoabi following the decision. One of the privileges now denied Zoabi is her diplomatic passport. Mocking her for this, Michaeli handed Zoabi a fake Iranian passport with her photo in it. “In every civilized country, a member of parliament who crosses the red line and identifies with the enemy and arming the enemy with weapons of mass destruction aimed at destroying his country’s national foundations will not find in his pocket a diplomatic passport of the country he aims to destroy,” Michaeli said. She went on to call Zoabi loyal to Iran and Iran President Ahmadinejad.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) interrupted Michaeli and Levin to stop the attacks. Rivlin has opposed the move to revoke Zoabi’s privileges from the beginning, insisting instead that any decisions should be left to the Attorney General, who has not yet made any ruling as to the illegality of Zoabi’s actions. Rivlin moved to hush the Knesset’s jeering. “I believe that everyone should have the right to speak their minds,” said Rivlin, “even if what they say hurts me.”

The Balad party has condemned the move as “racist and anti-democratic.”

Zoabi closed her remarks to her critics with an appeal to democracy. “You have no freedom of choice with regards to the rules of democracy,” Zoabi said. “There are fixed rules that do not change at whim. You do not need to protect democracy, but to protect me for democracy’s sake.”