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Home > English > Alternatives International Journal > 2010 > August 2010 > Paying for the Privilege

Paying for the Privilege

Arab-Israeli MK stripped of privileges for her involvement in Flotilla

Monday 2 August 2010, by Alternatives Information Center

The Israeli Knesset voted on July 13th to strip of MK Haneen Zoubi of key parliamentary privileges as punishment for her involvement in the Freedom Flotilla aid convoy, in which Israeli naval forces killed nine international activists, wounded dozens and hundreds were detained and deported. 

"You are punishing me out of vengeance," Zoubi told fellow Knesset members during the hearing. "When you threaten the Arab MKs and the Arabs’ protectors, you threaten democracy and co-existence between Jews and Arabs." 

MK Zoubi is losing privileges granted to Knesset Members: the privilege to exit the country, the privilege to carry a diplomatic passport, and the privilege to have the Knesset cover litigation fees of an MK if he or she is put on trial. 

Thirty-four lawmakers voted in favour of stripping Zoubi’s privileges and 16 voted against after a heated debate, according to the Israeli news daily Ha’aretz. 

The Knesset’s House Committee first met on 7 June to recommend revoking the privileges of MK Zoubi following her participation in the aid mission to Gaza, an act some in the Knesset deemed treasonous. 

MK Yariv Levin of the right-wing Zionist party Likud, and chairman of the House Committee, told Zoabi, "You have no place in the Israeli Knesset, you are unworthy of holding an Israeli ID and you embarrass the citizens of Israel, the Knesset, the Arab population and your family.” 

Zoubi made history in February 2009, becoming the first Palestinian woman elected to a Palestinian party in the Knesset. Her party is the National Democratic Assembly (al-Tajamu), and before Zoubi only two other Palestinian women had seats in the Knesset (within Zionist political factions). 

Immediately following Israel’s attack on the Freedom Flotilla, Interior Minister Eli Yishai petitioned Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to revoke the citizenship of Zoabi (the Supreme Court previously ruled that an interior minister cannot revoke a person’s citizenship without the written authorization of the attorney general). 

"MK Zoubi used her immunity as a cloak to protect her from the law, although she was undoubtedly aware of the activists’ preparations for the attack against IDF troops," Yishai wrote in his letter to Judge Weinstein. "This is a premeditated act of treason, and there is documented proof of this." 

Following Tuesday’s decision, MK Zoubi spoke out saying, "It’s not surprising that a country that strips the fundamental rights of its Arab citizens would revoke the privileges of a Knesset member who loyally represents her electorate." 

"I have the right and the duty to fight for my rights and my values," she continued, adding that "my positions are often different from those of the Likud, Kadima and most of the MKs. That’s why I don’t represent Kadima, the Labor Party or the Likud, but those who voted for me and in my case I represent the consensus of the Arab MKs." 

"You have no freedom of choice with regards to the rules of democracy," Zoubi told fellow MKs. "There are fixed rules that do not change at whim. You do not need to protect democracy, but to protect me for democracy’s sake." 

Zoubi has said she will seek legal and international aid, according to Ha’aretz, in order to "rein in the vengeful tendencies of the automatic majority in the Knesset."

To learn more about Haneen Zoubi, click here for her April 2009 interview with Alternatives International Journal.

The Alternative Information Center is a Jerusalem-based partner of Alternatives International.

The Alternative Information Center (AIC) is an internationally oriented, progressive, joint Palestinian-Israeli activist organization. It is engaged in dissemination of information, political advocacy, grassroots activism and critical analysis of the Palestinian and Israeli societies as well as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The AIC strives to promote full individual and collective social, economic, political and gender equality, freedom and democracy and a rejection of the ideology and praxis of separation.