Should MK Get Diplomatic Immunity for Flotilla?

Knesset debate rages over MK Basel Ghattas's decision to join 'freedom flotilla' backed by Islamic Jihad, leftists.

Tova Dvorin, | updated: 12:27

Ghattas with keffiyeh
Ghattas with keffiyeh
Hezki Ezra

The Knesset Committee is in the midst of a heated debate on Tuesday morning, on whether to revoke the diplomatic immunity of MK Basel Ghattas (Joint List) for his intent to participate in anti-Israel activity on a "freedom flotilla" heading for Gaza.

The flotilla is the combined effort of several anti-Israel NGOs and Islamic Jihad has threatened Israel with rocket fire if the flotilla is not allowed to reach Gaza. 

"It is has never happened that the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee filed a complaint on its own initiative to the Ethics Committee against an MK currently in office," MK Ahmed Tibi (Joint List) began. "While this is possible, it shouldn't happen." 

Somewhat predictably, Tibi then played the racism card. 

"If it had been up to the Committee, there wouldn't be any Arab MKs at all," Tibi claimed. "I think this whole debate is unnecessary. It well can be that the flotilla's journey from start to finish will culminate in nothing at all. It could try to enter Gaza, be turned away - you don't have to assume there will be violence." 

MK Sharon Gal (Yisrael Beytenu) fired back that Tibi's words reveal the innate hypocrisy of the Joint List. 

"Your words hide the extreme things you say on Facebook," he retorted. "In Hebrew you sound very moderate [...] but MK [Jamal] Zahalka threatened bloodshed and in the name of democracy and when MK Aymen Odeh promised coexistence, the first thing he did is to go see [arch-terrorist and mass murderer] Marwan Barghouti [in prison - ed.]." 

Gal added that one of the reasons that led him to the Knesset is Balad MK Hanin Zoabi's words last summer that the terrorists who brutally kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers are "not terrorists." 

MK Yoav Kish (Likud) accused the Arab MKs of being confused. 

"This is not the Palestinian parliament, but the Israeli parliament," he stated. "You have to represent the Arab citizens of Israel and not [Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud] Abbas or Barghouti."

MK Jamal Zahalka (Joint List) responded, "You come here to break rules. If there is an MK who wants to file a complaint, do it. Everything that happens here is that because of the live television broadcast. You do not allow us to reach a substantiative decision." 

"This is a political and humanitarian flotilla under the law and this discussion is unnecessary and has no place," Zahalka added.

MK Yinon Magal (Jewish Home) called out all the Arab MKs on the flotilla, noting they are acting as if they are "occupied in their own country" by supporting it and noting that no flotilla was sent to Syria. 

MK Anat Berko (Likud) said during the hearing that she expresses full sympathy for Palestinian Arabs in Gaza, but sarcastically remarked that "I want to congratulate the feminist revolution on the joint list that MK Zoabi broke through Ghattas." Zoabi's involvement on the disastrous Mavi Marmara flotilla, which was found to be full of arms without any humanitarian aid whatsoever, set off a political circus around her own status as well as the status of Arab MKs in Israel since 2010. 

"The aim of the flotilla is to introduce weapons and maybe some expired Optalgin pills [i.e. pain relievers - ed.]," Berko snapped. 

Zoabi, of course, defended the flotilla, claiming that exports and imports into Gaza have declined by 15% and that it has "half a million refugees who are lacking 70,000 homes, some of which are due to Israel's destruction and some of which are due to population growth." 

"The percentage of poverty is 40% unemployment and 60% among young people," she added. "We have a problem too of a whole generation of people who never left Gaza." 

"This is called a war crime and that is what the flotilla is fighting for." 

Notably, however, Israeli MKs from both sides of the political spectrum appear to be backing the argument that the flotilla is anti-Israel - and carries no humanitarian aid, in all likelihood. 

MK Danny Atar (Zionist Union) stressed that he sees the flotilla "as part of the attempt to delegitimize Israel."

"I make a clear distinction between civilians living in the Gaza Strip and those who control them," he noted. 

"Everyone knows that there's nothing that's humanitarian about this flotilla." 

MK Ayman Odeh (Joint List) fired back however, claiming that the Mavi Marmara incident 5 years ago is not a precedent for banning future flotillas - and pressing the Palestinian "occupation" line as well. 

"He who continues the occupation harms the State of Israel," Odeh said. "MK Ghattas is doing his duty as a representative of a public that has those positions."

"Israel presence in the Occupied Territories [Judea-Samaria - ed.] since '67 is the longest Occupation since World War II," he claimed further. 

MK Miki Zohar (Likud) turned that argument on its head, noting that the State of Israel belongs to the Jews and was "occupied" for the past 3,000 years. 

"This land is mine and God gave it to me," Zohar said. "I have historical and scientific data about our right to this land 3,500 years ago. You, the Arabs, are the conquerors, not us." 

Zohar also noted point-blank that "the actions here are against the State of Israel and a member of the Israeli Parliament cannot act against Israel." 

MK Oren Hazan (Likud) flippantly remarked that the Arab MKs are becoming confused because of the Ramadan fast.

"The State has rules," he said, noting that support for anti-Israel actions constitutes treason. 

"It's time to keep this on the table," said Hazan, "Arab Knesset members - if do not like it, you can leave."

"This is treason," MK Navah Boker (Likud) agreed. "You don't see anywhere else in the world where an MP can engage in business directed against his own country." 




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