The Knesset witnessed a rare eruption of violence on Wednesday when MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) was cursed and shoved after relating her experience as a passenger on the Mavi Marmara.
Knesset members from coalition and opposition parties alike sought to shout down the freshman MK, but the furor reached a climax when Anastasia Michaeli (Israel Beiteinu) charged the podium in an attempt to physically block Zoabi from continuing her speech.
It took a battery of ushers to remove MK Eli Aflalo (Kadima), who was called to order three times but remained standing in an aisle yelling and gesticulating until he was forcibly removed.
During the pandemonium, Arab and Jewish MKs scuffled in the aisles, and ushers were summoned to separate them.
“Go back to Gaza, you traitor!” MK Miri Regev (Likud) yelled in Arabic at Zoabi during the heated debate on the Free Gaza flotilla.
Zoabi was released from police custody early Tuesday morning.
At the podium, Zoabi said she was “astonished by the incitement” and “despised the words” she had heard during the Knesset debate on the Monday morning incident.
She said that she had agreed to participate in the flotilla, as it was a “political, human and moral imperative to oppose the imprisonment of 1.5 million people.”
She described the blockade of Gaza as an “illegal, inhuman, illegitimate siege opposed by every politician who has a moral position... only the immoral support the blockade.”
She blasted the MKs attacking her, saying, “Who is the criminal? Did I murder anyone?”
At that point, one MK shouted, “Check if she has a knife!” resulting in an uproar.
When Michaeli took the podium and attempted to stand between Zoabi and the microphone, Balad chairman Jamal Zahalka also ran forward to try to defend Zoabi.
A number of other Arab MKs also moved toward the podium, yelling. Michaeli and Zahalka were both expelled from the hearing by Knesset ushers.
Deputy Knesset Speaker Carmel Shama repeatedly tried to call the plenum to order, but was eventually forced to call a five-minute break when the MKs refused to calm down.
Over half an hour into the hearing, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin decided to change his schedule and to return to run the stormy plenum.
“My role is to ensure Israeli democracy, and I am willing to take chances in order to do so,” Rivlin admonished the MKs.
When Zoabi again took the podium, MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) yelled to Rivlin to “be careful, because there is a terrorist standing next to you.”
Although Zoabi, like the other speakers in the debate on the Gaza flotilla, was originally allotted one minute to deliver her speech, her time was repeatedly extended due to catcalls and interruptions by MKs. Rivlin finally told the outspoken MK to return to her seat, but she refused and was forcibly removed from the podium by the ushers.
Following the incident, the Balad faction coordinator, Musa Diab, who rushed into the plenum during the confrontation, was told that he was temporarily forbidden to enter the hall.
Also on Wednesday, MK Danny Danon said the Ministerial Committee for Legislation had agreed to debate a bill on Sunday that he had recently drafted, to allow for removing an acting MK from his position if he or she were found to have committed incitement against the State of Israel.
Regev’s office said that she had submitted a similar bill to the Knesset secretary on Wednesday afternoon.
Shama, shortly before the hearing, also announced that he had submitted a request to the Central Elections Committee to block Zoabi from being able to run in any future Knesset election.