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Arab-Israeli MP assailed in parliament over Gaza flotilla

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-06-03

A female Arab-Israeli lawmaker who took part in the ill-fated attempt to breach a blockade of the Gaza Strip was assailed by fellow MPs during a stormy parliament session on Wednesday when she took the floor to criticise the deadly Israeli raid.

REUTERS - Guards had to protect an Arab-Israeli lawmaker in Israel's parliament on Wednesday as Jewish members jeered and tried to wrest a microphone from her when she criticised the deadly raid on a Gaza aid flotilla.

In one of the stormiest parliament sessions in years, lawmakers reacted with rage when Hanin Zoabi called Monday's raid, in which Israeli commandos killed nine pro-Palestinian activists, "a criminal act of piracy".

The incident highlighted the tensions between Arab lawmakers serving in Israel's parliament and many Jewish members who often accuse them of siding with Palestinians in their conflict.

Zoabi, 41, one of about a dozen Arab citizens who are parliament members in a house of 120, was herself aboard one of the aid ships, but unharmed in the incident which she also insisted should be investigated.

"Why is this woman even being allowed to speak?" lawmaker Anastasia Michaeli of the ultra-right Yisrael Beitenu party shouted after running to the podium where several Israeli guards pulled her away as she lunged at Zoabi.

Michaeli said later she had been trying to grab the microphone to stop the speech by Zoabi, whose remarks were also cut short by catcalls from rightist and centrist lawmakers. Several were expelled from the hall.

Angry outbursts punctuated the entire debate. Miri Regev, of the right-wing Likud party and a former military spokeswoman, shouted in Arabic, followed by Hebrew, once she was given the floor:

"Go to Gaza, we don't need any traitors in Israel's parliament!"

Some lawmakers said they planned to introduce a measure to enable possibile charges to be filed against Zoabi for her role in the flotilla that sought to puncture Israel's blockade of coastal Gaza, where some 1.5 million Palestinians live.

Other Israeli Arab citizens who were aboard the flotilla were arrested but Parliament members enjoy automatic immunity from prosecution.

Arabs make up about a fifth of Israel's predominantly Jewish population. Many complain of suffering discrimination in terms of funding for their towns and job opportunities in Israel but otherwise enjoy full citizenship, unlike the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza.

Date created : 2010-06-03

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