Skip to main content

Israeli parliament suspends 3 Palestinian Knesset members

Hanin Zoabi, Basel Ghattas and Jamal Zahalka, members of the Joint List party, visited the family of a Palestinian attacker killed by Israeli forces
Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset Basel Ghattas speaks during a press conference in the northern Israeli city of Nazareth on 30 June 2015 (AFP)

Three members of the Israeli Knesset were suspended on Monday after they met with the families of Palestinian attackers who were killed by Israeli forces, according to local reports.

Palestinian MKs Hanin Zoabi and Basel Ghattas were suspended for four months while Jamal Zahalka was suspended for two months. All three are members of the Joint List party, mainly made up of Palestinian citizens of Israel.

The three MKs met with the family of Baha Aliyan, who killed three Israelis before being shot dead by police in Jerusalem on 13 October. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the meeting was set up by human rights groups to arrange for the return of dead bodies of attack suspects being held by Israeli authorities.

While the three will not be able to speak before the Knesset or attend the plenum at the end of the winter session, they will still be able to vote.

The Joint List said in a statement that it "condemns the incitement and agitation campaign led by (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu, which prompted the committee's miserable, anti-democratic and unethical decision. Even after the suspension we still demand the bodies held by the police to be released immediately."

"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 statement added that seeking the return of the bodies for a proper burial was a religious duty for all three major religions in Israel, and was "perfectly legitimate regardless of the circumstances of the death".

Members of other political parties, meanwhile, defended the action. Education minister and far-right Jewish Home party leader Neftali Bennett said that the MKs "have made themselves the successors of Haj Amin al-Husseini" - the Jerusalem mufti known for his meeting with Adolf Hitler in 1941. 

Eyal Ben Reuven of the centre-left Zionist Union said the Palestinian lawmakers were "inspiring terrorism and encouraging the murder of more and more Israelis ... The Israeli Knesset will not allow its members to exploit democracy in order to harm the State of Israel."

Ghattas and Zoabi received longer suspensions due to previous complaints against them.

After being arrested by the Israeli military upon setting sail on a flotilla with a group of activists in an attempt to break the seige of Gaza in June, Ghattas told Middle East Eye: "They will attempt to take some privileges away from me ... perhaps remove me from a committee. But this was a calculated risk."

Meanwhile, the Israeli Knesset pushed forward a draft bill that would allow for Knesset members to vote for the suspension of other members, Haaretz reported. 

If passed, the bill would make it possible to suspend any MK if 90 other members vote for the suspension. The MK would be banned for any period of time decided by the Knesset.

A wave of violence that began in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories in October has continued into 2016. Around 170 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli forces since 1 October, many of them after attacks but others during protests in the West Bank and Gaza. Nearly 30 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians in the same period.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.