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Knesset suspends three members of the Joint Arab List over visits to attackers’ families

By Marta Feirra - February 09, 2016
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Israeli government]

Three members of the Joint Arab List were suspended from their duties Monday evening after visiting the families of Palestinian attackers in the West Bank village of Qabatiya last week.

The Knesset Ethics Committee suspended MKs Hanin Zoabi and Basel Ghattas from plenary sessions and committee hearings for a period of four months, and MK Jamal Zahalka for two months, according to a Knesset statement. The three lawmakers from the Joint Arab List will still be able to vote in the plenum and in committees.

Zoabi and Ghattas received longer suspensions due to previous complaints filed against them, Haaretz reported. The meeting between the MKs and the families of the perpetrators of the attack carried out against Israeli security forces in Jerusalem was part of a campaign aimed at returning their bodies to the family members. The bodies of the three attackers are being held by Israeli authorities, who refuse to return them to their families for burial.

The Joint Arab List said the burying of the dead is a human duty shared by all religions, and considered the efforts to return the bodies “perfectly legitimate regardless of the circumstances of the death”, Haaretz reported. However, the meeting was followed by public uproar and criticism.

Along with other Knesset members, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu filed a complaint with the Ethics Committee demanding punishment for the three lawmakers. Zionist Union MK Eyal Ben Reuven accused the three Joint List members of “inspiring terrorism and encouraging the murder of more and more Israelis”, adding that the Knesset would not “allow its members to exploit democracy in order to harm the State of Israel and its citizens,”Haaretz reported.

On Monday, a draft bill was submitted to the Knesset’s Law and Justice Committee to see MKs suspended from their duties if voted for by three quarters of Israel’s lawmakers. If approved, the bill could be passed into law next week.

The law allows the Knesset to unseat a public representative for a period decided by the parliament’s members. Criteria for suspension include “behaviour unbecoming a Knesset member,” denying Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state and supporting the armed struggle of a terror organization or an enemy state.

"The Joint List condemns the incitement and agitation campaign led by Netanyahu, which prompted to the committee's miserable, anti-democratic and unethical decision,” said the political alliance of the four Arab-dominated parties in the Israeli Knesset.

"The vindictive punishment will not deter us, and we'll keep fighting against the policy of racism and fascism, and for true equality and real democracy, which Netanyahu is doing his utmost to eliminate,” the Joint List said.  


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