(JTA) – A Knesset committee voted to discipline an Arab-Israeli lawmaker because he is taking part in a flotilla seeking to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza.
In a 10-2 vote, the House Committee voted Tuesday to suspend Basel Ghattas, a member of the Arab Joint List party, from participation in all Knesset activities other than voting. Its recommendation will be sent to the Ethics Committee.
On Sunday, Ghattas said that he would board one of three boats in Freedom Flotilla III, whose organizers say they are bringing solar panels and medical equipment to Gaza. Ghattas’ participation sparked a spirited two-hour debate in the Knesset on Tuesday, the Jerusalem Post reported.
“Freedom of expression is the foundation on which activity in this House is built,” said the committee’s chairman, David Bitan of the Likud Party, who introduced the motion on Ghattas. “Unfortunately, there are those who take advantage of it to undermine the state and try to embarrass it time after time before the whole world and cause crises while taken advantage of the fact that he has parliamentary immunity.”
Ghattas did not get the necessary approval from the Ethics Committee for his trip, nor has he disclosed its funding source, Bitan added.
During the meeting, Oren Hazan, a Knesset member with Likud, said that “MKs who have trouble obeying the law should return their [Israeli] ID cards and move to the Palestinian Authority. [The flotilla] goes against the State of Israel. It is an anti-Semitic act. If you don’t like it here, you are welcome to leave.”
The Ship to Gaza organization, which is organizing the flotilla, is calling for an immediate end to the naval blockade of Gaza; opening of the Gaza Port; and secure passage for Palestinians between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The group’s first attempt to break the blockade ended in the deaths of nine Turkish activists in May 2010. A second attempt was turned back in October 2012.