An Isreali deputy interior minister has caused uproar by accusing Israeli Arab lawmakers of participating in terrorist acts and calling on them to “return” their Israeli citizenship.
Yaron Mazuz, who is also a member of Knesset for PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, waged the assault on his colleagues from the Arab Joint List on Wednesday during a debate on the cancellation of restriction on “family reunification,” which stops the Palestinians who marry Israeli nationals from receiving the citizenship.
During the debate, Deputy Interior Minister Yaron Mazuz of Likud took to the rostrum to issue the government’s response and called on Arab lawmakers to return their Israeli identity cards. Addressing the Arab Joint List’s MK Haneen Zoabi, Mazuz said: “Mrs. [Haneen] Zoabi, you are the first who ought to return your ID. We are doing you people a favor by even allowing you to be seated here – terrorists won’t be allowed to sit here. You people are in a democratic state, so respect the state. Whoever acts against the State of Israel using terror – has no right to be here. It’s unthinkable that from this abode, people will go out and participate in terror flotillas against the State of Israel.”
Amid the turmoil that subsequently erupted, Meretz MK Michal Rozin walked up to Mazuz while he was still at the stand, waving her identity card at him and demanding he ‘revoke’ it. Several minutes passed before Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein managed to gain control of the plenum. At one point he warned opposition MKs: “This is the last time MKs walk up to the rostrum while a minister is making a speech.” In reponse, Meretz MK Ilan Gilon said: “This isn’t a rostrum you are running, this is a hawker’s stand.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the stage after Mazuz criticized what he called lawmakers’ hypocrisy. “I heard no condemnation from the men and women here of the war crimes being committed in Syria,” he said, addressing the members of the Arab Joint List.
“The citizens of Israel have the right and the obligation to obey the state’s laws, and do not have the right to blame the soldiers of the IDF who protect us all – Jews and non-Jews – as criminals of war,” said Netanyahu. He added that the state was defending freedom of expression, but reserved the right to condemn what he called hypocritical behavior. “I’m talking about an issue of hypocrisy, and on your rights to say what’s on your mind. We are under no obligation to agree to this hypocrisy.”