by Jonathan Cook in Nazareth
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
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
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
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
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
An editorial in the liberal
Haaretz newspaper warned yesterday that an atmosphere of “dangerous
incitement” was developing against Israel’s Palestinian minority, a
fifth of the population. Two other Arab MPs, 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. This is a
premeditated act of treason.”
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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. According to autopsies
conducted in Turkey, five of the nine dead passengers were shot in the
head, and many of the lethal shots were fired from close range.
During her address to the
parliament last week, Ms Zoubi called for an international investigation
and demanded to know why Israel had not published photographs and video
footage it confiscated from passengers that related to the nine dead
and dozens of wounded.
After the session, she said: “It
was so hostile in the chamber that, had MPs been allowed to carry guns,
I am sure someone would have shot me.”
Israel has been swept by
rightwing demonstrations in support of the raid on the flotilla over the
past few days.
A Hebrew Facebook page “Execute
MP Haneen Zoubi” features a cartoon image of the MP with crosshairs on
her forehead as the figure waves a Palestinian flag with a bloody Star
of David at its centre.
Ms Zoubi said she had been
surprised to learn that the armed bodyguard -- normally reserved for
government ministers and the head of state -- was supposed to remain
with her even inside the parliament chamber. “What does that say about
the threat posed by my fellow MPs?”
Four other leaders of Israel’s
Palestinian community who were on the ships are being investigated by
police. After the mass release of detainees last week, they were freed
to house arrest but are banned from leaving the country.
At his remand hearing, Sheik
Raed Salah, a leader of Israel’s Islamic Movement, said of the flotilla
episode: “The soldiers tried to kill me. They fired in the direction of
someone else they thought was me.”
Rumours circulating widely that
Sheikh Salah had been killed in the commando raid eight days ago were
not denied by Israeli officials and only ended when his family
identified that a body brought to an Israeli hospital was not his.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and
journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and
the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle
East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments
in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.