The Knesset’s Ethics Committee has decided that MK Sayid Nafaa’s participation in a pro-Assad rally did not constitute a violation of ethical norms. MK Nafaa was exercising his freedom of expression, the committee found.
One month ago Nafaa participated in a rally in Haifa in favor of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has been harshly condemned by much of the world for killing thousands of Syrian civilians in a crackdown on political opposition.
During the rally at Al-Midan theater participants waved Syrian flags and pictures of Assad.
The Land of Israel Legal Forum filed a complaint against Nafaa following the demonstration. “Participation in an event the sole purpose of which is to support a dictator suspected of serious crimes against humanity, and of daily slaughter of innocents in order to prop up his regime, does not show loyalty to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and violates the obligation to uphold the dignity of the Knesset,” the group stated.
The Legal Forum argued that the rally violated laws against public support for terrorism, and therefore did not constitute a legally protected form of free speech.
The Knesset committee ruled in Nafaa’s favor. “The committee believes that participation in a political event, even if its messages are, to say the least, unpleasant, is protected under the freedom of political expression granted to Members of Knesset,” the ruling stated.
Legal Forum attorney Hila Cohen disagreed with the committee. “An MK who publicly supports a terrorist tyrant cannot play innocent and argue freedom of expression,” she said. “There’s a limit to cynicism, and to stretching the definition of ‘freedom of expression’ to cover support for violence and terrorism.”
MK Nafaa has had previous legal battles in Knesset, particularly over an unauthorized visit to Syria during which he met with terrorist leaders.