Arab Lawmakers Suspended for Meeting With Stabbers' Families

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.

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.

Tensions between Jews and Arabs in Israel have risen since a wave of stabbings, shootings and car-rammings carried out mainly by Palestinians has killed 27 Israelis and a U.S. citizen since October. A few Arab Israelis have also carried out attacks.

In the same period, Israeli forces have killed at least 156 Palestinians, 101 of them assailants, authorities say. Most of the others died during violent protests.

The bloodshed has been partly fueled by Palestinian frustration over long-stalled peace talks and anger at perceived Jewish encroachment on a contested Jerusalem shrine.

The three legislators faced the hearing after other lawmakers, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and hundreds of members of the public complained to parliament and accused the three of disloyalty to the state.

“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.

The left-wing Balad party is part of the Joint Arab List, a conglomeration of four factions that holds 13 seats in the 120-member Knesset. Balad members are particularly vocal in supporting Palestinian causes.

Zahalka told the Knesset television channel news that the suspension was “a political price for our moral stand, but we are prepared to pay this price.”

Israel’s Arabs have accused Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition of anti-Arab bias.

Netanyahu drew widespread international condemnation after making a rallying call to his supporters on election day last year to rush to the polls because Arabs were being bussed “in droves” to vote. He later apologized for the remark.

Author

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Arab Lawmakers Suspended for Meeting With Stabbers' Families

Thank you!

This article has been sent!

Close