The request to disqualify Balad MK Hanin Zoabi
from running in the elections
for the 19th Knesset raises serious questions regarding the easiness in which an Arab Knesset member can be delegitimized and demonized – to the point where she is branded a terrorist. The Knesset revoked some of Zoabi's privileges following her participation in the Gaza-bound flotilla,
and the attempt to physically attack her while she was addressing the plenum was the only such incident in the House's history. In addition, numerous MKs hurled insulting sexist slurs at her – all due to her participation in the flotilla.
Most regrettable is the fact that those in charge of the investigation knew the truth, but not one of them, including the attorney general, told the public the truth about Zoabi's involvement. While the attorney general did oppose her disqualification, he did not reveal to the public, the Supreme Court or the Central Elections Committee the information he had, which would have exonerated the Arab MK of all the allegations against her. Zoabi's attorneys disclosed to the Supreme Court the details of AG Weinstein's investigation after obtaining the information accidentally while working on another case.
The investigation conducted by the attorney general, who watched footage from the Mavi Marmara,
concluded that there was no evidence indicating that Zoabi was involved in the violence that transpired when Israeli commandoes raided the Turkish vessel. A governmental committee headed by Judge Turkel also investigated the incident and found that Zoabi was not connected to the violence. The state comptroller, who also investigated the incident, drew the same conclusion. But the attorney general did not disclose these findings to the government.
During the Central Elections Committee's deliberations, those who demanded that Zoabi be disqualified claimed that the MK expressed support for IHH, the group behind the Gaza flotilla. The disqualification clause bans MKs from running in the elections if it is proven that they support the armed struggle of a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. But in his response to the committee and the Supreme Court, the attorney general failed to mention that the government designated IHH as a terror organization long after the Gaza flotilla.
Zoabi aboard the Mavi Marmara (archives)
The Zoabi affair must concern the entire public, which did not receive relevant information from the law enforcement agencies. What should concern us most is the possibility that these agencies did not speak up for fear of criticism from the political establishment. The AG's silence over the past two years and the failure to reveal relevant information to the Supreme Court and the Elections Committee must concern all of Israel's citizens, but particularly the Arabs. In cases where incitement and the spreading of lies reach the level of revoking privileges, you may find out that the law enforcement agencies will not protect you.
The attorney general should have acted more responsibly and declared that MK Zoabi was not involved in any illicit activity. Such a statement would have possibly hurt his popularity a bit, but it could have prevented a two-year incitement and demonization campaign against an elected official.
Sawsan Zaher is an attorney at Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. She represented MK Zoabi in the disqualification case