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PMW report triggers political storm in Israel
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PMW report triggers political storm in Israel
 
PMW director presented today
in Israeli Parliament House Committee,
documentation of last week’s meeting
between Arab MPs and families of terrorists
 


Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik

Palestinian Media Watch sparked a political storm in Israel on Thursday by releasing a report in Hebrew that documented that three Arab members of the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, met with families of terrorists who recently attacked and murdered Israelis.
 
The meeting with the terrorists’ families was condemned all across the political spectrum from Prime Minister Netanyahu who said “those who comfort terrorists’ families don’t deserve to be Members of the Knesset,” and other heads of government, to leaders of the opposition parties (Their statements appear below). PM Netanyahu also asked the Attorney General and the Parliamentary Ethics Committee to investigate the Israeli Arab MPs. 
 
As the political storm continued, PMW Itamar Marcus was invited to speak today in the House Committee of Israeli Parliament, which met to discuss different courses of action to take regarding the Israeli Arab MPs who met with terrorists’ families. Marcus showed committee members the original documentation exposing the meeting and showed additional documentation of Arab MPs defending the meeting.
 
The three members of the Balad Party who met with the terrorists’ families were Haneen Zoabi, Jamal Zahalka,and Basel Ghattas. Balad wrote about the meeting on its Facebook page where it also referred to the terrorists with the highest term of religious honor - Shahids (Martyrs for Allah). Using this term means that according to the Balad Party, Allah sanctioned and rewarded their acts of murder. In addition, the Balad Party also posted a video message of the father of the terrorist who murdered 3 Israelis on a Jerusalem bus.
 
Israel TV Channel 2 broadcast a statement by Israeli PM Netanyahu condemning the meeting followed by an interview with PMW’s director Israel Marcus and Labor Party MP Itzik Shmuli (for the full text of the interview, see below).
 
The Balad Party responded to Netanyahu’s call for their banishment from parliament, presenting the meeting with the terrorists’ families as “protecting human values”:
 
“[Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and his choir have lost their senses in their call to banish the Balad MPs from parliament. However, we know that when the trumpets of Fascism incite against us, it means that we are protecting human values.”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 6, 2016]
 
Below are two Jerusalem Post stories about the political storm created by PMW’s report and reactions across the political spectrum, as well as the report in the official PA daily on Balad’s response.

The PMW report first released in Hebrew on Thursday will be published in English as a separate report.
 

 
Headline: "Netanyahu: Those who comfort terrorists’ families don’t deserve to be MKs"
 
"Balad MKs do not deserve to be in the Knesset after they visited terrorists’ families, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday evening.
The comment came in response to three Joint List lawmakers’ meeting with 10 families of terrorists this week, including one who killed three Israelis. MKs Jamal Zahalka, Haneen Zoabi and Basel Ghattas, all from the Balad party that is part of the Joint List, met with the families of terrorists whose bodies have not been released by authorities, including the father of Baha Alian, who, together with an accomplice, killed three people by shooting and stabbing passengers on a bus in Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv neighborhood on October 13, 2015. Police shot and killed Alian at the site of the attack.
Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein examined what steps can be taken against the legislators, and decided to personally submit complaints to the Knesset Ethics Committee about them.
The prime minister also sought Attorney-General Avihai Mandelblit’s opinion on the matter.
'It cannot be that when innocent civilians are being slaughtered on the streets of Israel, MKs go to comfort [the terrorists’ families] and with incomparable audacity, even bring their requests to the government,' Edelstein said. 'I see this as seriously harming the Knesset and the State of Israel and hope that this will enter the hearts and minds of Supreme Court judges next time they rule on an appeal of the disqualification of unworthy candidates for the Knesset.'
The Supreme Court has overturned all past Central Election Committee decisions to ban Balad or individual members of the party from running for seats in the Knesset.
Edelstein does not have the authority to punish the Balad MKs, but if the Ethics Committee determines the visit was a violation, it can sanction them with suspensions of up to six months from all Knesset activity but voting - a punishment Zoabi received in the past for comments sympathizing with Hamas during Operation Protective Edge - or a new punishment that has yet to be used, docking their salaries. In addition, if the attorney-general finds their actions to be criminal, he may ask the Knesset House Committee to vote to remove their immunity, so they can be put on trial.
Palestinian Media Watch brought to light on Thursday a Facebook post by Balad, calling Alian a shaheed, or 'martyr' in Arabic. The same title was used to describe other terrorists whose families were in the meeting.
The Facebook post featured a video clip of Alian’s father, Muhammad, saying that the visit was 'warm and productive' and that the lawmakers 'listened to the suffering and pain of the shaheed’s families,' and promised to make every effort to pressure the government to release terrorists’ bodies.
In addition, Alian said the MKs planned to meet with the families again, to update them on their efforts.
Palestinian news agency Maan reported that the meeting in east Jerusalem opened with a moment of silence and a reading from the Koran, after which Muhammad Alian, 'the official spokesman of the martyrs’ families,' welcomed the lawmakers, according to a translation by Palestinian Media Watch.
The MKs emphasized their Palestinian identity, Maan reported, and said they will do all they can to pressure Israeli decision-makers so that the bodies will be buried, as not burying a body is a severe sin.
'The [MKs] saluted the families’ strong stance and their endless struggle against [Israeli] aggression,' the report reads.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) called the visit a stain on Israel’s history.
'I call on the Arab public: You are better than them. Reject them. Condemn them. We will not have unity among us if our public representatives meet with our murderers,' Bennett said.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) said, 'Arab MKs do not miss an opportunity to support terrorism. They foremost harm their own voters, because they do not represent or promote anything other than supporting terrorism and activity against the State of Israel.
'The Arab public should be the first to come out against its representatives that are acting as agents of terrorism, and not as its representatives in the Knesset,' she added.
Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman called the visit “proof that Joint List MKs in general and specifically those from Balad are representatives of terrorist organizations in the Knesset.
Liberman said the Balad MKs’ meeting with the families was 'just a reminder to those who need it in the government and law enforcement, that the terrorists must be removed from the Knesset, and preferably from the State of Israel as well, as soon as possible.'
Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) said it is clear that there are supporters of terrorism in the Knesset.
'We must change election laws so that those who behave immorally and harm the State of Israel cannot sit in the Knesset,' he said.
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said the Balad MKs visit was an act of 'hatred and subversion' that supports the murder of innocents.
'We must denounce the MKs who met with vile terrorists’ families,' he continued. 'The MKs from Balad are harming an entire population group in an unprecedented manner.'
MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin (Zionist Union) said the Balad lawmakers were 'cutting the last strings attaching them to Israeli society, with their own hands. We cannot stand by while MKs visit the families of terrorists who hurt and murdered Israelis.'
MK Anat Berko (Likud) said: 'I can’t imagine a possible parallel situation, in which members of Congress visited the family of Muhammad Atta, who was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.'
'Who do Balad members identify with? With the murderers of our people?' she said.
MK Michael Oren (Kulanu) tweeted: 'Let me get this straight: Israeli MKs meet with terrorists’ families and not the victims’, and we’re still paying their salaries?'
A Balad spokesman responded that 'the MKs met with families that asked to release their sons’ bodies for burial. The request was sent to the public security minister.'
However, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) did not express sympathy for the Balad legislators’ cause, tweeting: 'The bodies of the terrorists will not be released until the families meet the police’s demands that are meant to ensure the funerals do not turn into demonstrations of incitement and support for terrorism. Instead of promoting that, the Arab MKs did the exact opposite.'
Erdan called on the attorney-general 'to examine if the MKs’ visit with the terrorists’ families breaks the law against supporting acts of terrorism and murder.'
Palestinian Media Watchwhich first reported the Arab MKs’ visit, is an Israeli research institute studying Palestinian society, focusing on its media and schoolbooks controlled by the Palestinian Authority, Fatah and Hamas."
[http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Arab-Israeli-MKs-have-warm-and-productive-meeting-with-terrorists-families-443876, Feb. 4, 2016]
 
Headline: "'Netanyahu inciting against us,' Arab MKs say after visiting terrorists' kin"
"The Joint List called Balad MKs’ visit with terrorists’ families a humanitarian one, saying on Friday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the one at fault for criticizing them.
'The meeting of MKs Jamal Zahalka, Haneen Zoabi and Bassel Ghattas,' from Balad, one of the parties making up the Joint List, 'with families in eastern Jerusalem who want their sons’ bodies in order to bury them, was meant to promote a humanitarian issue of the first rate. 
'The three MKs heard the family and their positions on the conditions the police set and passed the information on to Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who said a final decision had not yet been made. It is important to emphasize that burying the dead is a human and religious commandment in the three religions, Islam, Judaism and Christianity; therefore, we call to free the bodies immediately,' the faction’s statement reads.
Earlier this week, the Balad MKs met with the families of 10 terrorists whose bodies have not been released by authorities, including the father of Baha Alian, who, together with an accomplice, killed three people by shooting and stabbing passengers on a bus in Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv neighborhood on October 13, 2015. Police shot and killed Alian at the site of the attack. The Balad Facebook page, brought to light by Palestinian Media Watch, called the terrorists shaheeds (martyrs) and featured a video of Alian’s father calling the meeting 'warm and productive.' Ma’an, a Palestinian news agency, said the MKs took part in a moment of silence for the terrorists.
Jewish Israeli politicians from Bayit Yehudi to Meretz denounced Balad for taking part in the meeting.
Netanyahu said 'MKs who go to comfort families of terrorists who murder Israelis do not deserve to be members of the Israeli Knesset.'
The prime minister and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein submitted complaints to the Knesset Ethics Committee, and Netanyahu sought Attorney-General Avihai Mandelblit’s opinion on steps that can be taken against the lawmakers.
On Friday, the Joint List said it 'rejects and condemns the incitement led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against [the Balad MKs] about their actions to return the bodies, which is totally legitimate without any connection to the circumstances of the death. 
'Stop the incitement,' the faction’s statement said. 'The issue has been discussed by political and security officials...therefore it is unclear why there has been such a fuss about the actions to return the bodies that have not yet been buried. The prime minister and some ministers and MKs took advantage of the issue to incite and called for punishment, even though no laws or ethics rules were broken.'
Meanwhile, Edelstein spoke to Michah Laken, the son of Richard Laken, who was murdered by Alian, who called in the press for the Knesset Speaker to remove the Balad MKs’ immunity.
Edelstein explained that he does not have the authority to do so, but suggested that Laken submit a complaint to the Ethics Committee and called on any other disturbed citizens to do so. Instructions on petitioning the committee can be found on the Knesset website.
'The Knesset is the people’s House. It listens to and works for the people, and therefore, it is the right of anyone who was hurt to ask it to conduct an inquiry,' Edelstein said. 
Edelstein does not have the authority to punish the Balad MKs, but if the Ethics Committee determines the visit was a violation, it can sanction them with suspensions of up to six months from all Knesset activity but voting - a punishment Zoabi received in the past for comments sympathizing with Hamas during Operation Protective Edge - or a new punishment that has yet to be used, docking their salaries. In addition, if the attorney-general finds their actions to be criminal, he may ask the Knesset House Committee to vote to remove their immunity, so they can be put on trial.
The Supreme Court has overturned all past Central Election Committee decisions to ban Balad or individual members of the party from running for seats in the Knesset."

The following is the report in the official PA daily on Balad’s response to Israeli PM Netanyahu’s call for banishing the MPs who met with terrorists’ families:
 
Headline: "Incitement campaign in Israel against Arab MPs due to their meeting with Jerusalem Martyrs' (Shahids) families"
"Three [Israeli] Arab MPs awakened the rage of the Israeli political echelon after they met with the families of those who carried out operations (i.e., terror attacks) against Israelis, or their representatives.
The Balad Party, a member, together with other Arab parties, of the 'Joint List,' the third [largest] power in the [Israeli] parliament, clarified in a notice that the three MPs wanted to fulfill 'their obligation to help bereaved families regain the bodies being held by the Israeli authorities in a manner opposed to all humanitarian and international norms and laws,' and added that the holding of the bodies is ‘an act of revenge and injury to the families' religious and human feelings’... Balad condemned the incitement, which it described as 'crude and light-headed,' against its MPs. Balad stated in an announcement: '[Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and his choir have lost their senses in their call to banish the Balad MPs from parliament. However, we know that when the trumpets of Fascism incite against us, it means that we are protecting human values. Not returning the bodies (i.e., of the terrorists) is an act of revenge and injury to the families' religious and human feelings. We will not give in to Netanyahu, [Israeli Minister of Education Naftali] Bennett, and [Israeli MP Avigdor] Lieberman's incitement, and will not change our standpoint, even slightly."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 6, 2016]
 
Israeli TV Channel 2 interview with PMW director Itamar Marcus
Israeli TV Channel 2 host: “At the top of the news tonight, the storm surrounding the [Israeli] Arab MPs who met with families of terrorists from the current wave of terror. Prime Minister Netanyahu and Speaker of the Parliament Edelstein announced this evening that they will submit, in an unprecedented manner, personal complaints to the Ethics Committee against Hanin Zoabi, Basel Ghattas, and Jamal Zahalka...”
Israeli TV Channel 2 parliament correspondent: “Many bodies in the political system are demanding a full investigation of the three Arab MPs who met with family members of the terrorists whose bodies have not yet been turned over for burial... Even before Netanyahu turned to them, the Parliament's Ethics Committee announced that it will examine the matter, following many applications from MPs from the Right and the Left...”
Israeli TV Channel 2 host: “We return to the scandalous visit by the Joint [Arab] List's MPs with the terrorists' families... With us on this matter are two guests. Itamar Marcus, Director of the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) research institute.”
Director of PMW, Itamar Marcus: “Good evening.”
Israeli TV Channel 2 host: “And MP Itzik Shmuli, of the Zionist Camp.”
MP Itzik Shmuli: “Hi, good evening.”
Israeli TV Channel 2 host: “Itamar, we will begin with you. You exposed this documentation, it must be noted. Balad members tried to hide it.”
Director of PMW, Itamar Marcus: “I do not know if they really tried to hide it. After all they posted it on their website. They revealed it to those close to them in Arabic, to people who are interested in what is happening with Balad. Perhaps that is what is serious:  MPs wish to publicize to the Israeli Arab public that they met with terrorists' families to express solidarity with them. They are sending a message to Israeli citizens that they identify with murderers of Israelis. This is a serious thing that happened, that they actually publicized it, as I said, on their Facebook page.”
 Israeli TV Channel 2 host: “As someone who monitors their activities, monitors what is happening in the Arab media, are you surprised?”
Director of PMW, Itamar Marcus: “We were not so surprised by the fact that they held the meeting. We also monitor Arab MPs and unfortunately there are many grave things that they do. Very problematic statements, frequent identification with inappropriate things, terrorists, etc., so we were not completely surprised, but so close to the murder, the blood still damp...”
Israeli TV Channel 2 host: “I would like to bring MP Shmuli into the conversation. One great achievement of the Joint [Arab] List this evening - they have succeeded in uniting the Left and Right in a rare manner.”
MP Itzik Shmuli: “Yes, I think that even if you take into account all of the provocations of [Arab] Balad Party members in parliament until now, and as you know there are many, not on the Temple Mount, and not from the flotillas, this is a record, or perhaps a new type of low, which is most nauseating and despicable. At the height of the wave of terror that you are reporting on almost every evening, with murdered and wounded Israelis, these people, instead of visiting the wounded in the hospitals, pay condolence visits for murderers and terrorists who injure Israeli citizens.”
Israeli TV Channel 2 host: “Itamar, does this documentation really connect in your eyes to the fact that we see more Israeli Arabs in this wave of terror?”
Director of PMW, Itamar Marcus: “Yes, definitely, not only do the MPs not express their disagreement sufficiently, or at all, even expressing solidarity, the PA also praises and encourages the acts of -“
Israeli TV Channel 2 host: “Let's focus on the Israeli Arabs.”
Director of PMW, Itamar Marcus: “Yes, definitely. We would expect MP leaders to say clearly 'While we have disagreements with the Israeli government, we have no disagreement over terror.' But we have not heard this.”
[Israeli Channel 2, Feb. 4, 2016]
 


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