MK Jamal Zahalka escorted from Knesset plenum
MK Jamal Zahalka escorted from Knesset plenumFlash 90

A complaint filed by MK Zevulun Kalfa (Jewish Home) to the Knesset's Ethics Committee, over the verbal abuse heaped on him by Arab MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) during a Committee of the Interior meeting last November, has finally been decided on.

During a discussion of a bill that would set regular prayer hours for Jews at the Temple Mount, where they are regularly forbidden and discriminated against, Zahalka hurled epithets at Kalfa including "fascist, racist, settler, occupier," all while shouting at him to "shut up." He even tried to physically remove Kalfa from the meeting, but was prevented from doing so by an usher.

Despite the boorish behavior, the Ethics Committee let Zahalka off with a mere warning, remarking his conduct "is a breach of the rules of ethics by seriously harming the respect of the Knesset and its members. This kind of hooliganism, whose goal is to prevent a legitimate discussion in the Knesset, is not acceptable. These are not sharp political expressions, but rather an attempt to prevent discussion through rude behavior." 

Excerpts from the "circus":

Kalfa expressed his disappointment over the decision to let Zahalka off with a warning: "this is a toothless decision. How can it be that an MK is attacked during a discussion and the MK who attacked him gets a warning on his personal file as if he were a school student?"

"This is not freedom of expression, but freedom of incitement, Arab MKs incite and rebel against the state, and the Knesset lets them continue to rage," argued Kalfa. "This kind of event requires a meaningful response and can't be wrapped up with a mere warning."

Threats of a "third intifada" from within the Knesset

Aside from Kalfa, Committee Chairwoman MK Miri Regev (Likud Beytenu) and MK Urit Struk (Jewish Home) similarly submitted complaints against Zahalka and fellow Arab MK Ahmed Tibi (Raam-Taal).

During the meeting, which quickly turned into a circus, Arab MK Muhammad Barakeh (Hadash) threatened Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount, saying menacingly "whoever comes to defile the Al Aqsa Mosque will find us there." Tibi joined the free-for-all, threatening Regev by saying "the Second Intifada began because of Al Aqsa, and because of you it will erupt because of Al Aqsa... you are a pyromaniac." 

Struk noted in her complaint that Tibi threatened "that as a result of a legitimate decision of the Israeli Knesset... 'a third intifada will break out.'" 

Regev wrote "even before I managed to start the meeting MK Tibi broke out with shouts, along with MKs Zahalka and (Afou) Agbaria (Hadash). The shouting was accompanied by slander and the use of rude expressions like 'upstart,' 'pyromaniac,' 'you're causing a third intifada,' and more."

"It was clear that the Arab MKs who came to the discussion joined together to prevent the discussion," reported Regev.

Struk complained that Tibi "spoke against me disparagingly while shouting, and hurled serious statements at me that do not belong in the Israeli Knesset."

Those statements included "you are a lowly settler," and after Struk responded to Tibi's intifada threats by saying "you say that as a friend of (former PA Chairman) Yasser Arafat," Tibi quipped "I am proud to be Arafat's friend... his shoe is worth ten like you."

Tibi can also be heard in video from the altercation calling another MK, likely Struk, "ya haywaan," meaning "you swine," in Arabic.