Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Yet More Evidence of Israel's "vibrant" democracy at work

Arab MP is Israel’s public enemy No1

Jonathan Cook, Foreign Correspondent


* Last Updated: June 07. 2010 11:27PM UAE / June 7. 2010 7:27PM GMT

Haneen Zoubi has become a national hate figure in Israel.

Jonathan cook . The National

Nazareth, Israel // An Israeli parliamentary committee recommended stripping an Arab MP of her privileges yesterday in a move to prepare the ground for putting her on trial for participating last week in the Gaza-bound aid flotilla attacked by Israeli commandos.

Haneen Zoubi, who has become a national hate figure since challenging Israel’s account of the confrontation, said yesterday she was facing “a witch-hunt”.
The interior minister, Eli Yishai, has submitted a request for her citizenship to be revoked, and a bill – labelled the “Zoubi Law” – is being considered that would allow a serving MP to be expelled for “inciting” against the state.

Ms Zoubi has been provided with a bodyguard after receiving a spate of death threats. A popular Facebook page in Hebrew is calling for her execution and an online petition for her expulsion from the parliament has attracted tens of thousands of supporters.

Last week, in unprecedented scenes as she tried to address parliament, Ms Zoubi was heckled into silence by Jewish legislators shouting out “terrorist” and “traitor”. Guards only narrowly prevented a far-right parliamentarian from attacking her.

Yesterday’s hearing of the parliament’s house committee was originally intended to consider revoking the immunity of six Arab MPs, including Ms Zoubi, who travelled to Libya in April. All the Arab MPs boycotted the meeting.

However, the committee chairman, Yariv Levin, of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, switched the focus to Ms Zoubi’s involvement in the flotilla.

Legal advisers said the MP was still being investigated for attempting to enter a closed military area and violence against the commandos. After she disembarked from the Mavi Marmara in Ashdod last week, Ms Zoubi said she had been questioned by police about possessing a weapon.

The committee approved by a majority of 7-1 stripping her of parliamentary privileges that take away her diplomatic passport, reportedly to prevent her fleeing the country, and withdraw help with litigation fees. Parliament must approve the decision.

Mr Levin accused Ms Zoubi of betraying the country and said she must be put on trial. “What Zoubi did crossed the line and even in a democracy there must be red lines. Whoever sails to Hamas is a supporter of terror,” he said.
Ms Zoubi responded: “They conducted a kangaroo court against me. They have called on the public to harm me.”

An editorial in the liberal Haaretz newspaper warned yesterday that an atmosphere of “dangerous incitement” against Israel’s Palestinian minority was developing. Two other Arab members of parliament, Ahmed Tibi and Taleb al Sana, revealed that they too had received death threats.

In addition to the removal of Ms Zoubi’s privileges, she is also facing the revocation of her citizenship. The measure has been used only twice before in Israel’s history – both times against Palestinian citizens accused of terrorism.

Last week, Mr Yishai wrote to the attorney general asking for the go-ahead, saying Ms Zoubi had “headed a group of terrorists” and was “undoubtedly aware of the activists’ preparations for the attack against IDF troops.

Orna Kohn, a lawyer with Adalah, a legal centre for the country’s Palestinian minority, said Mr Yishai’s move was “uncharted legal territory” that could leave Ms Zoubi stateless, in violation of international law. “There is simply no precedent for revoking the citizenship of an MP,” she said.

After Ms Zoubi’s release last week, she said she had seen three passengers shot in the head by soldiers, and two more left to bleed to death. Ms Zoubi has called for an international investigation.


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