The Knesset Ethics Committee issued a severe reprimand to MK Hanin Zoabi (Joint List) over ”extreme” comments she made during a recent plenary debate on the reconciliation agreement between Israel and Turkey.

During the June 29 debate on the agreement with Turkey, under which Israel agreed to compensate the families of those who were killed during the raid on a Gaza-bound vessel, Zoabi said: ”I stood here six years ago, some of you remember the hatred and hostility toward me, and look where we got to. Apologies to the families of those who were called terrorists. The nine that were murdered, it turns out that their families need to be compensated. I demand an apology to all the political activists who were on the Marmara and an apology to MK Hanin Zoabi, who you`ve incited against for six years. I demand compensation and I will donate it to the next flotilla. As long as there`s a siege, more flotillas need to be organized.”

MK Zoabi severely reprimanded by Ethics Committee over ”extreme” comments she made during debate on Israel-Turkey reconciliation deal

(MK Hanin Zoabi, archive photo)

In May 2010, nine Turkish nationals, including one with American citizenship, were killed in clashes that erupted when IDF commandos raided the Mavi Marmara, the final ship in the flotilla from Turkey that tried to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza. Zoabi participated in the flotilla and was aboard the vessel when it was intercepted.

During the plenary debate, Zoabi also said the reconciliation deal is an admission of guilt by Israel with regards to the flotilla incident.

Several MKs began shouting and moved toward the podium to complain. As MKs mobbed the stage, Zoabi shouted ”they murdered” and ”shut up” repeatedly. The Ethics Committee described the debate as ”very severe, and at moments seemed like it could deteriorate into physical violence and undoubtedly harmed the dignity of the Knesset and its members.”

The Ethics Committee said it had received numerous complaints against Zoabi from nine different lawmakers. The majority of the committee members said Zoabi’s statements were ”extreme, provocative and not anchored in reality, and are at the very least on the border of political freedom of expression for MKs.”

”However, because of the broad freedom of political expression MKs enjoy, together with the fact that the disturbances to her speech didn’t actually allow her to complete a sentence or an organized argument from the moment she took the podium, there are no grounds to increase her punishment at this time for her remarks themselves,” the committee said.

In her defense, Zoabi pointed out that she did not say the words ”IDF soldiers are murderers,” but the committee said that the majority of its members accept this explanation ”with difficulty” and that other MKs and the public ”justifiably” understood from her comments that she was accusing IDF soldiers of being murderers. They also said she misled Deputy Knesset Speaker Hamad Amar (Yisrael Beitenu) by saying she meant to apologize, and instead repeated her inflammatory remarks, making the incident even worse than it already was.

Zoabi, for her part, submitted complaints against several of the MKs who shouted at her, including MK Oren Hazan (Likud), who she said yelled ”offensive” things at her.

Hazan was also severely reprimanded by the Ethics Committee, which said he ”undoubtedly was the one who instigated the commotion in the plenum and continued to fan the flames, breaking all acceptable codes of behavior.”

MKs Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid), Nava Boker (Likud), Hilik Bar (Zionist Camp) and Aliza Lavi (Yesh Atid) were given a ”comment” – the lowest grade of Ethics Committee sanction – for their conduct during the debate.

In its decision, the Ethics Committee called on MKs to ”show restraint and allow appropriate discussions in the plenum, even when extreme remarks are made. As for getting threateningly close to the stage, the committee thinks that doing so has potential to turn violent and breaks the rules of behavior in the Knesset plenum. The committee wishes to warn the MKs that from now on it will consider serious sanctions in such cases, including suspension.”