The High Court spent most of Tuesday’s hearing questioning Zoabi’s politics rather than deliberating whether the Knesset had the right to suspend her in the first place.
Israel’s High Court of Justice held a discussion Tuesday morning over Knesset member Haneen Zoabi’s (Balad) petition to overrule a decision to suspend her from parliamentary debates for six months. The decision was put into effect by the Knesset Ethics Committee on July 29 and is due to expire at the end of January 2015. Tuesday’s session ended without a decision, but justices said one would be made in the coming days.
The suspension was implemented based on statements Zoabi made during a radio interview in June about the abduction of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank (before their fate was known). Here is what she said:
Despite stating she does not support the abduction, and in principle opposes any acts of harm against civilians, her refusal to call the kidnappers “terrorists” led Israeli politicians to claim that she violated the Knesset’s code of conduct and therefore can be suspended (the code normally relates to statements made inside the Knesset). At the time, Zoabi tried to explain in the Hebrew media that she refuses to use the word “terrorists,” as it reflects a unilateral Israeli point of view that portrays Israelis as the sole victims.
The petition, filed on Zoabi’s behalf by Adalah, an NGO dedicated to the rights of Israel’s Palestinian citizens, and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), argues that that the suspension violates her right to freedom of speech. The petition further claimed that it is not within the Ethics Committee’s jurisdiction to limit an MK’s activities.
According to Adalah, this is the harshest penalty ever imposed by the committee in the history of the Knesset concerning a single statement. It is also the first time that the committee has imposed a punishment for a statement that did not include any threats, incitement, contempt, slander or defamation:
According to some present in the courtroom, the judges spent most of the time interpreting Zoabi’s statement and politics rather than deliberating whether the committee had the right to make such a decision.
Haaretz reporter Revital Hovel, who was in the courtroom, tweeted one of the justices remarks: “I don’t understand how a person who proclaims to be an...Read More