The High Court on Thursday published the details of its 2012 ruling that MK Hanin Zouabi could not be banned from the most recent Knesset elections because of her participation in the Turkish flotilla three years ago – and, newly vindicated, Zouabi said she would not hesitate to participate in another flotilla.
Zouabi, along with other left-wing and Israeli Arab extremists, participated in the 2010 Turkish-sponsored flotilla that featured the ill-fated Mavi Marmara ship, which planned to run the Israeli sea blockade of Gaza. Three dozen Hamas-affiliated Islamists violently attacked Navy commandos who boarded their Mavi Mamara ship virtually unarmed after the boat’s captain refused to change course from Hamas-controlled Gaza.
That incident resulted in the death of eight Islamist extremists and many serious injuries, including to a number of the IDF commandos.
Last December, on the eve of the elections for the current Knesset, the Central Elections Committee banned her from running for a Knesset seat. Zouabi appealed to the High Court, which lifted the ban against her, enabling her to run with her Arab-nationalist Balad party and to sit in the current Knesset.
The Elections Committee banned Zouabi under a clause requiring candidates and parties not to work against Israel's character as a Jewish, democratic state. The clause was previously used to bar Rabbi Meir Kahane from Knesset. The decision came just hours before party lists for the January 22, 2013 election, with the Court withholding its reasoning for the decision because of time constraints.
Until Thursday, that is – when the Court released its reasoning, with the judges saying that banning a candidate was a “drastic” decision. The evidence of Zouabi's inciting of the violence against IDF soldiers among Hamas-affiliated terrorists who participated in the flotilla was insufficient, the Court decided. Citing for the majority, Justice Asher Grunis said that “requesting that one of the basic rights available to all citizens in a democracy be cancelled requires more than four Internet articles for evidence.”
In another opinion, Justice Salim Jubran said that “participating in the flotilla in and of itself cannot be considered as supporting violence.” He added that opposing Israeli policy in Gaza “and a desire to improve the lot of Palestinians is not a show of support for violence.” Regarding charges that Zouabi had been in contact with the heads of Hamas before the flotilla – and that she had advance knowledge that IDF soldiers were to be savagely attacked – Jubran wrote that there was no proof of this either.
A video clip released in 2010 showed Zouabi aboard the Marmara standing next to a group of Turks who are armed with clubs and metal bars, with many believing that they were among the mob that attacked the sparsely-armed IDF soldiers who rappelled down onto the ship after it refused to adhere to IDF orders to change course. Zouabi said repeatedly after the incident that though she was on the ship, she had no knowledge of any preparations for a violent attack on IDF soldiers.
Speaking Thursday, Zouabi said that the High Court decision had clearly exonerated her from any evidence of wrongdoing.
“After the ongoing attempts to blacken my name and incite against me it is the responsibility of the media to publicize the reasons why I was not guilty of anything. I once again repeat that the only threat I felt on the Marmara was from IDF soldiers who took actions against flotilla participants. I see my participation in the flotilla as a legitimate political activity against the blockade of Gaza and I would certainly participate in similar activities if given the opportunity,” she added.