Jamal Zahalka, Haneen Zoabi: an Appeal to Parliamentarians Worldwide

MK Haneen Zoabi (BALAD) Faces Death Threats AS the Israeli Knesset House
Committee VOTEs to Revoke her Parliamentary PRIVILEGES FOR Participating in
the Gaza-BOUND humanitarian AID Flotilla and Protesting against the blockade

An Appeal to Parliamentarians Worldwide

June 9, 2010


On June 7, 2010, the Knesset House Committee of the Israeli parliament voted
by a majority of seven-to-one to recommend that the parliamentary privileges
of MK Haneen Zoabi (NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC ASSEMBLY—BALAD) be revoked. In
accordance with the committee’s decision, MK Zoabi will be stripped of three
rights usually enjoyed by members of the Israeli parliament. First, her
diplomatic passport will be rescinded. Second, her privileges regarding
travel abroad will be curtailed. Third, her legal costs incurred while in
service will no longer be covered by the Knesset. Before taking effect, the
revocation of these privileges must be approved by the Knesset plenum. A
vote on these matters may take place as early as next week.

The House Committee decision followed several stormy days in the Knesset,
during which MK Zoabi was accused by fellow parliamentarians of being a
“terrorist” and a “traitor,” and subjected to racist and sexist remarks so
offensive and abusive, that some were ordered stricken from the public
record. In light of this hateful atmosphere, it is likely that the Knesset
plenum will approve the House Committee’s recommendations.

Background—MK ZOABI and the Gaza FREEDOM FLOTILLA

The ongoing military blockade of the Gaza Strip, now in its fourth year, has
turned Gaza into the world’s largest open-air prison with what Amnesty
International has called “a humanitarian crisis” of “catastrophic levels.”
To date, there has been little to no international pressure on Israel to
lift the blockade, not even after Israel’s massive three-week assault on
Gaza in 2008-2009, during which some 1400 Palestinians were killed. The
twofold aim of last week’s “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” was to provide much
needed aid to some 1.4 million Palestinians while breaking the international
community’s silence about, and complicity with, the siege, which is
precisely why MK Zoabi accepted the invitation to partake in it.

Together with hundreds of activists hailing from some forty countries, MK
Zoabi, representing a diverse constituency of Jewish and Palestinian
citizens of Israel who object to the siege and do not want it perpetrated in
their names, set sail with a clear humanitarian message: end the siege, end
the occupation, end the oppression of the Palestinian people.

Following the Israeli naval attack on the aid flotilla on May 31, 2010, in
which nine Turkish activists were killed, MK Zoabi, enjoying parliamentary
immunity, was the first to be released from illegal detention and the first
eyewitness to describe what had happened when the boats were intercepted in
international waters. Thus, offering the first account to contradict the
army spokesperson and embedded journalists, MK Zoabi infuriated the Israeli
public by countering the official Israeli version of events. In response,
Israeli ministers and MKs have called to revoke her parliamentary immunity
and Knesset membership, as well as her criminal prosecution. The Israeli
Minister of Interior, accusing MK Zoabi of “treason,” has requested
authorization from the Attorney-General to revoke her citizenship.

Instead of affirming MK Zoabi’s basic political, civil and human
rights—including freedom of speech—the Knesset has instead joined the choir
and come to the army’s defense by attempting to silence MK Zoabi by clipping
her wings. On June 2, 2010, one of the stormiest days the Knesset has known,
MK Zoabi was attacked not only verbally but also physically by Knesset
members from the Israeli mainstream and rightwing (see Knesset video
footage: <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBUxZnHb2ig> and
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7OEzB1GgRs&amp;NR=1> ).

In their attempt to “shoot the messenger,” these lawmakers have fueled the
fire of public campaigns calling to execute MK Zoabi. Since the “Gaza
Freedom Flotilla” last week, MK Zoabi has received over 50 death threats.
For fear of violence against her (including by other MKs), the Knesset has
had to assign her personal security guards
. To date, no ruling party elected
official (neither Labor, Kadima nor Likkud) has spoken out in support of her
right to life and liberty.

CALL FOR ACTION

The persecution of MK Zoabi is but the latest wave in a tide of political
repression against the Palestinian citizens of Israel, including various
attempts to disqualify BALAD from participating in the general elections,
and to delegitimize Arab activists, intellectuals and political leaders who
promote the idea of a democratic “State for all its Citizens.”

Already on the political margins, the Palestinian citizens of Israel and
their Israeli Jewish political allies are facing a virulent campaign of
incitement, criminalization and state-sanctioned hate. In other words, the
narrow space of political legitimacy is shrinking fast, and the latest
witch-hunt against MK Haneen Zoabi is a case in point. But it is more than
that; it is also a test case. Should the world stand by and let the Israeli
parliament strip MK Zoabi of her political rights, revoking her civil rights
is but the next step. And if they can do this to an elected official, surely
they can do it to an average law-abiding dissenting citizen.

Parliamentarians are accorded immunity and privilege not so they can act
beyond or above the law, but so they can use them as means to realize
conscionable and responsible ends. If partaking in a peaceful international
flotilla aimed at aiding a besieged, beleaguered and impoverished civilian
population facing a man-made humanitarian crisis perpetrated by one’s own
government is not an act of conscience, or civic duty, than what is?

We ask you to contact representatives of the Knesset and the government of
Israel (list of contacts below), and urge them to respect MK Haneen Zoabi’s
right to carry out her parliamentary work on behalf of the Palestinian
citizens of Israel and their Jewish political allies free of abuse, threat,
intimidation, punition or censorship. To deny her rights as a lawmaker is to
deny her voters’ right to be represented; to defend her rights as a lawmaker
is to defend her voters’ right to be seen, heard and counted.

In the Name of Balad Parliamnetiran Group

Mk Jamal Zahalka | office: 02-6408184 | fax: 02-6753182 | jzhalka@knesset.gov.il <mailto:jzhalka@knesset.gov.il>

Mk Haneen Zoabi | office: 02-6408029| fax: 02-6496595 | hzoaby@knesset.gov.il <mailto:hzoaby@knesset.gov.il>

For more details Contact Yasmeen Daher on 054 4884961 | balad.parliamentarian.group@gmail.com <mailto:balad.parliamentarian.group@gmail.com>

Contact information:

NAME TITLE Email Phone Fax
Reuven Rivlin <http://knesset.gov.il/mk/eng/mk_eng.asp?mk_individual_id_t=114> Knesset Speaker rrivlin@knesset.gov.il 02-6753444 02-6496193
Benjamin Netanyahu <http://knesset.gov.il/mk/eng/mk_eng.asp?mk_individual_id_t=90> Prime Minister pmo.heb@it.pmo.gov.il 02-6705512 02-5664838
Tzipi Livni <http://knesset.gov.il/mk/eng/mk_eng.asp?mk_individual_id_t=213> Opposition Chairperson zlivni@knesset.gov.il <mailto:zlivni@knesset.gov.il> 02-6408458 02-6496659
Eliyahu Yishai <http://knesset.gov.il/mk/eng/mk_eng.asp?mk_individual_id_t=63> Minister of Interior sar@moin.gov.il 02-6701401 02-5666376

Parliamentary Group Chair Party Email Phone Fax
Dalia Itzik <http://knesset.gov.il/mk/eng/mk_eng.asp?mk_individual_id_t=8> Kadima dizik@knesset.gov.il 02-6496756 02-6496055
Zeev Elkin <http://knesset.gov.il/mk/eng/mk_eng.asp?mk_individual_id_t=768> Likkud zelkin@knesset.gov.il 02-6408145 02-6496438
Daniel Ben Simon <http://knesset.gov.il/mk/eng/mk_eng.asp?mk_individual_id_t=836> Labor dbensimon@knesset.gov.il <mailto:dbensimon@knesset.gov.il> 02-6408850 02-6496415
Chaim Oron <http://knesset.gov.il/mk/eng/mk_eng.asp?mk_individual_id_t=5> Meretz horon@knesset.gov.il <mailto:horon@knesset.gov.il> 02-6408348/4 03-6961728


The complete IOA coverage of the Gaza Flotilla

The complete IOA coverage of the Haneen Zoabi

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