Every day seems to bring yet a new outrage against free speech and democratic rights in Israel. Yesterday, the Israeli police manhandled the director of Women of the Wall, wrested a sacred Torah scroll from her hands, and hauled her off to jail–all for praying. Today, it only took 34 of the 120 member of the Knesset who actually had the guts to strip Israeli Palestinian MK Haneen Zoabi of her parliamentary privileges–all because she represented her constituents faithfully and joined the Gaza flotilla. The greatest shame perhaps is that only 16 Knesset members opposed this anti-democratic abortion.
What is interesting about all this is that Zoabi broke no Israeli law in doing so (she might have had the flotilla reached Gaza). So in effect, the Knesset minority basically said you did something offensive and we will punish you for it. This usurps the legal process by which the police and attorney general would do their job and ferret out illegality and prosecute it. It is an entirely arbitrary and capricious act and I hope she will appeal it to the Supreme Court, a body which at times has been known to get off its duff and protect the rights of Israel’s largest ethnic minority.
It should also be noted that MK Zoabi had the honor of a Facebook group created which wished her good health in the form of demanding she be hung from the highest tree for her ‘betrayal’ of the State. This indicates the robust good health of Israeli democracy.
Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin is on record opposing the measure which passed, which is a tribute to his sense of the dignity of the Knesset. However, he is wrong when he warns the right wing Knesset members that once they strip Zoabi, that their privileges and immunity too could be stripped. He’s wrong because no Israeli Knesset would ever strip a right-wing member of immunity. The right-wing essentially owns the Knesset and they can act with virtual impunity barring an act of Kahane-Goldstein like mass mayhem.
I have often written here that Israel, instead of a democracy, is a national security state which accords Jews superior rights and Palestinian citizens rights at its discretion. When it is inconvenient to the State, the rights of the Arab minority are curtailed at will.
The last MK whose immunity was stripped was Azmi Bishara, who was driven into forced exile by the Shin Bet. Who knows what the rightist MKs have in store for Zoabi next? There is a campaign to strip her of citizenship entirely and leave her stateless like hundreds of thousands of Israeli Palestinian refugees from 1948. Wouldn’t that be an irony worth noting? If I were her I would dare them to do so. It will only harm Israel’s image and burnish Zoabi’s.
I’ve got news for any advocate for Israel as a Jewish supremacist state out there: “they” have as much right to be there as you (or we Jews, if you prefer) do. They’re not going away. You can only deprive them of their rights so long.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.