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Three Joint List MKs suspended from Knesset over visit to Palestinian attacker’s homes

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Three members of the Joint List—the third largest faction in Israel— were suspended from Knesset today for visiting the homes of East Jerusalem Palestinian families whose relatives carried out attacks against Israelis in recent weeks. Haneen Zoabi and Basel Ghattas will be barred from Knesset assembly sessions for four months, and Jamal Zahalka for two.

During the suspension the officials will still be able to vote.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sharply criticized the meetings with Palestinians last week and vowed to take legal action against the legislatures. On Monday he backed an amendment to Basic Law–Israel’s version of a constitution–that approved ousting representatives for “behavior inappropriate for their position as a member of the Knesset.”

“Members of Knesset who go to comfort the families of terrorists who murdered Israelis do not deserve to be in the Israeli Knesset. I have asked the Speaker of the Knesset to examine what steps can be taken against them,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

In response Zoabi posted on Facebook, “The real crime is in the detention of the bodies.”

Over the past four months as violence increased in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, the bodies of dozens of Palestinians who were killed by Israeli police in the course of attacks and alleged attacks were kept in Israeli morgues, at times for months. The returning of remains of West Bank residents takes place through a formal process with the Palestinian Authority. On December 31, 2015, Israel returned seven bodies to the Palestinian government, in exchange for a list of concessions that included limitations on the number of funeral attendees and a prohibition on autopsies. Three more were released over the weekend. Israel is expected to turn over an additional 10 in the coming days, again with conditions on limiting the size of funerals.

The exchange of bodies for assurances of small numbers of mourners is not without its uses for Israel. The restrictions were common practice during the second Intifada, when processions with thousands of bereaved often developed into large demonstrations against the Israeli military.

Yet for the bodies of East Jerusalem Palestinians there is no clear process or advocate. While the Palestinian Authority claims jurisdiction in practice they are banned from operating in Jerusalem. Zoabi’s party head Ayman Odeh said her visit was to fill the administrative gap and coordinate arrangements, rather than pay condolences or lend support to attacks against Israelis, as Netanyahu said.

“The purpose of the visit was to assist in coordinating the return of the remains of the Palestinians who were killed by Israeli security at the scenes,” Odeh said.

“We are strongly opposed to the Israeli government’s commerce in human bodies. Netanyahu and his ministers know full well what the meeting in East Jerusalem was about: this is a fundamental human issue. All human beings, horrendous as their crimes may be, should be allowed to be buried,” he continued.

For Zoabi the censure was proceeded by more legal troubles. She received a suspended jail sentence on Sunday for six months over a 2014 incident where she disparaged two police officers.

Two years ago Zoabi called officers standing guard “traitors” when exiting a Nazareth court following the hearing of constituents detained during a protest in the aftermath of the burning alive of 16-year old Mohammed Abu Khdeir in Jerusalem that summer. The killing sparked waves of demonstrations across Israel and the West Bank. Zoabi later apologized for the comment, “My remarks came against a backdrop of harsh arrests,” even so her peers in Knesset probed the insult for incitement.

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24 Responses

  1. Annie Robbins
    February 8, 2016, 9:31 pm

    “The real crime is in the detention of the bodies.”


  2. bryan
    February 9, 2016, 3:38 am

    We hear so much about America and Israel being identical societies facing identical threats. However can you even imagine US police retaining the bodies of those killed in Ferguson type incidents until their families and communities conceded to the two demands of limiting the size of funerals and forgoing the right to hold an autopsy? Can you even imagine a Congressman being suspended for visiting the families of those involved in communal violence?

    America and Israel may be similar in some repects (gross inequalities in wealth and power, increasing militarisation of civil police forces, etc) but in important respects (rule of law, respect for basic human rights, etc) they are world’s apart, and they are worlds that are steadily drifting further apart as Israel intensifies its occupation. Israel is not necessarily a bad country, any more than America is – they are both countries with troubled histories where good and bad people coexist, though in both the bad people inexorably rise to the top. But Israel is trapped in a nightmare situation where its continued pursuit of the occupation of another people’s land inexorably drives it away from normalcy and towards roguery. End the occupation now!

    • Jon66
      February 9, 2016, 10:19 am

      “Can you even imagine a Congressman being suspended for visiting the families of those involved in communal violence? – See more at:

      Can you imagine a Congressman visiting the homes of an Iraqi who attacked US forces to discuss the return of the Iraqi’s remains? Could you imagine a Congressman visiting the home of the Santa Barbara shooters to discuss funeral arrangements?

      • John O
        February 9, 2016, 12:46 pm

        They don’t need to.

      • a blah chick
        February 9, 2016, 4:10 pm

        “Could you imagine a Congressman visiting the home of the Santa Barbara shooters to discuss funeral arrangements?”

        We don’t withhold bodies! And if we do it is wrong wrong wrong!

        These MK’s are trying to get DEAD PEOPLE released from custody, why do you have a problem with that?

      • oldgeezer
        February 9, 2016, 9:38 pm


        What rules would stop them. None. Nor should they. Facism lives in Israel where all must conform or face punishment

      • Jon66
        February 9, 2016, 10:53 pm

        No rules would stop them, but the would be booted at the next election. Providing comfort to the family of murderers would be seen as a bridge too far.

        Supposedly she was there to coordinate the return of the bodies. Would a Congressman get involved in the logistics of something like this. If needed they might send an aide.

        ABC, as I have noted in another thread, I don’t condone the use of the dead as currency. However, Lebanon, Hezbollah, Egypt, and Jordan have all used human remains in negotiations. It seems to be a regional custom. Personally, I would like to see all the dead returned ASAP.

      • Annie Robbins
        February 10, 2016, 1:01 am

        However, Lebanon, Hezbollah, Egypt, and Jordan have all used human remains in negotiations.

        over people whom they govern? i don’t think so. this is politial blackmail from a ruler to the people they rule over and occupy. whole different ballpark.

      • Jon66
        February 10, 2016, 6:10 am


        To me it’s about the principle. Is it permissible to use the remains of the dead as a tool to obtain your goals? If it is, then I don’t see a a significant difference. For me, I don’t care for the practice either way.

        You say it’s OK to use the remains as leverage in some circumstances and not others. I think that’s just an excuse for poor behavior. It’s disrespectful in all circumstances.

      • oldgeezer
        February 10, 2016, 8:19 am

        “No rules would stop them, but the would be booted at the next election. Providing comfort to the family of murderers would be seen as a bridge too far. – See more at:

        So having mischaracterized the situation and made a comment that could not be substantiated you decide to justify it with pure speculation of an alternate reality.

        Spare me the time wasting bs.

      • Jon66
        February 10, 2016, 10:11 am


        You are missing the point. No Congressman would do it because in the case of an Iraqi they would be seen as giving aid to an enemy and in the case of a murderer giving comfort to a criminal. It wouldn’t come to the point of having sanctions.

      • Annie Robbins
        February 10, 2016, 11:36 am

        no, you are missing the point jon. oldgeezer is right, you are making up “pure speculation of an alternate reality,” one that does not exist.

        and quit telling us (over and over) you don’t ‘care for the practice’, it’s totally irrelevant and a rhetorical tool.

      • Mooser
        February 10, 2016, 11:30 am

        “Is it permissible to use the remains of the dead as a tool to obtain your goals?”

        “The Holocaust justifies the Nakba, completely”

      • bryan
        February 11, 2016, 7:37 am

        Jon66: Suspension and even expulsion of members can occur in the UK and US, but is exceedingly rare, and usually related to egregious acts of corruption, not as part of a long-term effort to disenfranchise and demonise minority communities.

        The three MKs argue (very plausibly) that their visit was purely driven by a desire to resolve the crisis of the missing bodies, and can thus be viewed as humanitarian and even conciliatory (understandable indignation among Palestinians about the theft could easily fuel further violence). (“Zahalka (one of the three MKs) said the criticism of the meeting was disingenuous, because it was meant only to help the families get the bodies back. As proof of his intentions, Zahalka said Zoabi went immediately after the meeting to Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan with a chart detailing the conditions the families would be willing to meet.” See

        Can I imagine Israeli MKs standing in solidarity with the families of the Duma killers, or complaining about the manner of their interrogation, or applauding mass-murderer Baruch Goldstein, or funding and providing impunity to the illegal outposts where such terrorist plots are hatched? Well yes I can. Can I imagine elite members of the Israeli government, military and diplomatic services as well as ordinary citizens making contact with and even having extended discussions with representatives of Hamas and Hezbollah? Well yes I can, and I applaud such moves, since incitements against treachery lead only in one direction, and appropriate negotiation and conciliation moves lead in an entirely opposite direction.

        It is for this reason that real democracies assign a high degree of immunity to their elected representatives so that they can engage in fact-finding missions, support minorities within their constituencies, and engage in bridge-building. That is one of the reasons why Britain has had far more success in dealing with the very long-standing crisis in its relationship with the Irish than Israel has ever had, or will ever have, in dealing with its neighbours.

        Lessons that might usefully be transferred from Northern Ireland to Palestine are:
        (1) the essential role of the rule of law, with ordinary back-bench parliamentarians having significant influence in advocating and implementing an end to internment, torture, shoot-to-kill, and efforts to diversify policing, eroding the power of the B specials (c.f. Israeli Border Police) and restrain paramilitary forces (c.f. settlement security forces / price-tag crimes).
        (2) especially when direct negotiations are failing, confidence building measures have a vital impact. E.g. creation of Community Relations Council and efforts at power-sharing; Curricular reform esp. the 1990s “Education for Mutual Understanding” program which stressed the cultural heritage of both communities; sensitive social policies esp. “Targeting Social Need” which sought to direct government funds to areas and communities that would benefit most from economic and social development, and improve minority access to jobs, housing and education; Cross-border co-operation, on a range of issues going far beyond mere security issues.
        (3) accepting intervention from honest brokers (e.g. George Mitchell, the EU).

        There’s a short-term programme for you that I guarantee will beat kidnapping the dead or dancing on their graves.

      • TdBerg
        February 15, 2016, 12:14 pm

        Not an appropriate comparison. Regardless- if they did, they would not be barred from Congress. Freedom of speech is a very important component to democracy. Without it democracy fails. That is the big picture issue. Channeling Voltaire- I may not agree with you- but I will fight to the death to preserve you right to say it. Why? Because that is the only way I preserve my rights as well. Israel is not a democracy. They need to stop claiming that they are. This is just one more nail in the coffin.

  3. genesto
    February 9, 2016, 12:04 pm

    Haneen has been one my heroes ever since I met her on the Turkish Airlines jet that was preparing to take us out of Israel to Turkey after our 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla experience. I remember her then as relatively quiet and unassuming, belying her fierceness and courage which she has displayed regularly as the most vocal and courageous representative of the oppressed Palestinian minority in Israel. Here, again, she has put her career, and maybe her safety, on the line to do the principled thing. Bravo!

    She is truly an inspiration that would be garnering worldwide acclaim, if only she wasn’t a Palestinian woman.

  4. Sulphurdunn
    February 9, 2016, 1:13 pm

    Holding the dead for ransom is pretty creepy.

  5. amigo
    February 9, 2016, 6:51 pm

    Excuse me , but didn,t these MK,S visit their fellow Citizens of Israel .Where is the problem with that.

    Just more zionist deflection.

    • oldgeezer
      February 9, 2016, 9:35 pm

      I’m not sure it is deflection as much as the continuing search for ways and means to effectively disenfranchise non Jewish citizens.

      Any excuse will do.

    • Jon66
      February 10, 2016, 6:03 am

      No. According to the article they are East Jerusalem Palestinians who are represented by the PA.

  6. CWasten
    February 10, 2016, 11:51 am

    Israel isn’t even pretending to be a democracy, is it? It’s like suspending all the representatives and senators who attended netanyahu’s speech to congress.

  7. TdBerg
    February 15, 2016, 12:07 pm

    So much for freedom of speech in this vibrant “democracy”. Israel becomes more fascist by the day.

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