Supreme Court hears Arab Israelis MK's appeal

AFP , Monday 28 Mar 2011

Hanin Zoabi whose rights as a Knesset member were revoked after she tired to break through the Gaza blockade has turned to the Supreme Court, telling them the move was 'political persecution'

Hanin Zoabi
Israeli Arab lawmaker Hanin Zoabi who was on board of the Gaza-bound flotilla when it was raided by Israeli forces Monday, speaks to the press in Nazareth, northern Israel, Tuesday, 1 June 2010. (AP)

An Arab Israeli lawmaker appealed to the Supreme Court on Monday after parliament stripped her of key privileges for joining a foreign flotilla trying to break the blockade on Gaza.

Haneen Zuabi, an MP with Balad, a left-wing Arab nationalist party, told the court the move was "political persecution," media quoted her as saying.

The lawmaker sparked outrage among her Jewish colleagues for participating in the flotilla, which was the centre of a navy raid that left nine Turkish activists dead.

Lawmakers voted to strip her of her diplomatic passport and parliamentary funding for legal defence. They also took away her parliamentary privilege to leave the country even if she is wanted in connection with a felony.

Right-wing activists reportedly chanted slogans against Zuabi in court, telling her to "go join Gaddafi," and calling her a "traitor," public radio said.

It was not immediately clear when the court would rule.

The petition, filed by Arab Israeli rights group Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel on behalf of Zuabi, said parliament had exceeded its powers.

"Revoking MP Zuabi's rights would create a dangerous precedent that allows the majority’s representatives to punish the minority’s representatives for political activity with which they disagree," they said in a statement. "Such a precedent could shake the foundations of the right to freedom of political expression."

At the vote last year lawmaker Yariv Levin of the ruling Likud party told Zuabi she had no place in parliament.

"You have no place in the Israeli Knesset, you are unworthy of holding an Israeli ID and you embarrass the citizens of Israel, the Knesset, the Arab population and your family," he said.

The Israeli navy raid on the flotilla sparked a wave of international condemnation.

Israel says its commandos only resorted to force after being attacked as they reached the deck, but activists claim the soldiers started firing first.

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