Witchhunt for an Israeli MP

Witchhunt for an
Israeli MP

Officials Try to Strip
Haneen Zoubi of Citizenship

Jonathan Cook
CounterPunch
June 8, 2010

Nazareth — An Israeli parliamentary committee recommended stripping
an Arab MP of her privileges yesterday in a move to prepare the ground for
putting her on trial for participating last week in the Gaza-bound aid
flotilla attacked by Israeli commandos.

Haneen Zoubi, who has become a national hate figure since challenging
Israel’s account of the confrontation, said yesterday she was facing “a
witch-hunt”.

The interior minister, Eli Yishai, has submitted a request for her citizenship
to be revoked, and a bill — labelled the “Zoubi Law” — is being considered
that would allow a serving MP to be expelled for “inciting” against the state.

Ms Zoubi has been provided with a bodyguard after receiving a spate of
death threats. A popular Facebook page in Hebrew is calling for her execution
and an online petition for her expulsion from the parliament has attracted
tens of thousands of supporters.

Last week, in unprecedented scenes as she tried to address parliament, Ms
Zoubi was heckled into silence by Jewish legislators shouting out “terrorist”
and “traitor”. Guards only narrowly prevented a far-right parliamentarian
from attacking her.

Yesterday’s hearing of the parliament’s house committee was originally
intended to consider revoking the immunity of six Arab MPs, including Ms
Zoubi, who travelled to Libya in April. All the Arab MPs boycotted the
meeting.

However, the committee chairman, Yariv Levin, of Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu’s Likud Party, switched the focus to Ms Zoubi’s involvement in
the flotilla.

Legal advisers said the MP was still being investigated for attempting to
enter a closed military area and violence against the commandos. After she
disembarked from the Mavi Marmara in Ashdod last week, Ms Zoubi said
she had been questioned by police about possessing a weapon.

The committee approved by a majority of 7-1 stripping her of parliamentary
privileges that take away her diplomatic passport, reportedly to prevent her
fleeing the country, and withdraw help with litigation fees. Parliament must
approve the decision.

Mr Levin accused Ms Zoubi of betraying the country and said she must be
put on trial. “What Zoubi did crossed the line and even in a democracy there
must be red lines. Whoever sails to Hamas is a supporter of terror,” he said.

Ms Zoubi responded: “They conducted a kangaroo court against me. They
have called on the public to harm me.”

An editorial in the liberal Haaretz newspaper warned yesterday that an
atmosphere of “dangerous incitement” was developing against Israel’s
Palestinian minority, a fifth of the population. Two other Arab MPs, Ahmed
Tibi and Taleb al Sana, revealed that they too had received death threats.

In addition to the removal of Ms Zoubi’s privileges, she is also facing the
revocation of her citizenship. The measure has been used only twice before
in Israel’s history — both times against Palestinian citizens accused of
terrorism.

Last week, Mr Yishai wrote to the attorney general asking for the go-ahead,
saying Ms Zoubi had “headed a group of terrorists” and was “undoubtedly
aware of the activists’ preparations for the attack against IDF troops. This
is a premeditated act of treason.”

Orna Kohn, a lawyer with Adalah, a legal centre for the country’s Palestinian
minority, said Mr Yishai’s move was “uncharted legal territory” that could
leave Ms Zoubi stateless, in violation of international law. “There is simply
no precedent for revoking the citizenship of an MP,” she said.

After Ms Zoubi’s release last week, she said she had seen three passengers
shot in the head by soldiers, and two more left to bleed to death. According
to autopsies conducted in Turkey, five of the nine dead passengers were shot
in the head, and many of the lethal shots were fired from close range.

During her address to the parliament last week, Ms Zoubi called for an
international investigation and demanded to know why Israel had not
published photographs and video footage it confiscated from passengers that
related to the nine dead and dozens of wounded.

After the session, she said: “It was so hostile in the chamber that, had MPs
been allowed to carry guns, I am sure someone would have shot me.”

Israel has been swept by rightwing demonstrations in support of the raid on
the flotilla over the past few days.

A Hebrew Facebook page “Execute MP Haneen Zoubi” features a cartoon
image of the MP with crosshairs on her forehead as the figure waves a
Palestinian flag with a bloody Star of David at its centre.

Ms Zoubi said she had been surprised to learn that the armed bodyguard —
normally reserved for government ministers and the head of state — was
supposed to remain with her even inside the parliament chamber. “What
does that say about the threat posed by my fellow MPs?”

Four other leaders of Israel’s Palestinian community who were on the ships
are being investigated by police. After the mass release of detainees last week,
they were freed to house arrest but are banned from leaving the country.

At his remand hearing, Sheik Raed Salah, a leader of Israel’s Islamic
Movement, said of the flotilla episode: “The soldiers tried to kill me. They
fired in the direction of someone else they thought was me.”

Rumours circulating widely that Sheikh Salah had been killed in the
commando raid eight days ago were not denied by Israeli officials and only
ended when his family identified that a body brought to an Israeli hospital
was not his.

Jonathan Cook is a British journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His reports
on Israel-Palestine have been published in numerous journals and websites
including the Guardian, the Observer, the Times, Al Jazeera, New Statesman,
International Herald Tribune, Al-Ahram Weekly (Cairo), The National
(Abu Dhabi), Electronic Intifada and Counterpunch. His latest book is
Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books,
2009). His two earlier books are Blood and Religion and Israel and the Clash of
Civilisations
(Pluto Books, 2006, 2008). Visit his website:
http://www.jkcook.net/index.html

http://www.counterpunch.org/cook06082010.html