Israeli Supreme Court rejects MK Haneen Zoabi's petition against her suspension from the Knesset
On 10 December 2014, by a 4-1 vote, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected the petition submitted by Adalah and ACRI on behalf of Arab MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad/al-Tajammu' party) against the Knesset. The Knesset Ethics Committee decided on 29 July 2014 to suspend MK Zoabi from all parliamentary meetings for six months (until the end of January 2015) based on statements that she made in a radio interview in June 2014 about the abduction of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank.
Following the decision, Adalah and ACRI stated, "The Court's decision is extremely dangerous as it comes to endorse political punishment that was imposed by members of the Knesset from the majority on MK Haneen Zoabi on the basis of her political statements. The Knesset's decision is radical and unprecedented in its history."
The human rights organizations' added, "The Supreme Court's role is to defend the minority from the tyranny of the majority. The Supreme Court failed to do so in this case. This decision poses a threat on the parliamentary immunity of Arab members of Knesset (MKs) and their right to freely express their views that represent Arab citizens in Israel. The decision enables MKs from the majority to impose political punishments on MKs from the Arab minority because of their political views."
Adalah and ACRI concluded that, "The decision contradicts a series of previous Supreme Court judgments, which cancelled sanctions imposed on Arab MKs because of their political views and statements. It is ironic that an unfair decision such as this one is taken on International Human Rights Day."
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) - an international organization of parliaments around the world of which Israel is a member – and its Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians is examining the case of MK Haneen Zoabi. In a unanimous decision made public on 16 October 2014 in Geneva, the IPU’s Governing Council emphasized that it is:
- “Deeply concerned that Ms. Zoabi has been suspended from taking part in all parliamentary activity except for voting for six months, hence impairing her ability to exercise the mandate entrusted to her by her electors and their effective representation in the Knesset”;
- “Fears that she was suspended on account of having exercised her freedom of speech by expressing a political position, as the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians believed was the case when the Knesset punished her for her participation in the Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010”;
- “Sincerely hopes that the High Court of Justice will swiftly decide on the petition challenging the suspension and adopt a decision that fully recognizes the right to freedom of expression, respect for which is essential for members of parliament.”
The petition was submitted by Adalah General Director Attorney Hassan Jabareen, Adalah Attorney Mysanna Morany and ACRI Legal Advisor Dan Yakir. The petition argued that the Knesset's decision to suspend MK Haneen Zoabi is unfair and illegitimate, since that the statements that she made fell within her rights to freedom of expression, and do not constitute an ethical violation. The petitioners added that the decision was taken although the Attorney General decided not to open a criminal investigation against MK Zoabi for incitement based on these statements.
The human rights organizations also argued that the Knesset Ethics Committee decision against MK Zoabi is the harshest penalty that has ever been imposed by the Committee in the history of the Knesset regarding a single statement. It is also the first time that the Committee imposed a punishment based on a statement that did not include any threats, incitement, contempt, slander, or defamation.
Case Citation: HCJ 6706/14, MK Haneen Zoabi et al. v. The Knesset