Tel Aviv police blockade Zochrot’s offices to prevent a legitimate protest
Excerpts from a discussion at The Israeli Parliament, 2.5.2012
By: Stenographer LK
04/2012
This is a country that fears its own citizens

Chair:  Orly Levi-Abekasis:
We move to the next agenda item.  A topic for the agenda: “Tel Aviv police blockade Zochrot’s offices to prevent a legitimate protest,” No. 7961, 7982 and 7984, from MKs Hanin Zouabi and Masud Ganaim.
I invite MK Hanin Zouabi to be the first speaker.

MK Hanin Zouabi (Balad):
Madam Speaker, members of the Knesset.  Last Wednesday evening approximately 15 activists belonging to Zochrot planned to come from the organization’s offices near Rabin Square in order to place on the road leaflets bearing the names of the Palestinian villages destroyed in 1948.  Zochrot never attempted to conceal its intention since it was clear to all that this was a legitimate activity.  In every democratic country, in every normal country where freedom of speech is a fundamental right, citizens have a right to protest.  The same is true in a country that upholds the right of its citizens to know.  To know what happened when the state was established. It was a quiet, completely non-violent activity.  There was no reason to repress it, nor any reason to fear that what they said would disturb the peace.  True, there was fear - not of disturbing the peace, but of the truth.  
As the activists began leaving the building they discovered that it had been surrounded by the police who had blocked its entrances. The police officers kept the activists from leaving in order to prevent what they called a disturbance of the peace.  Attempts by attorneys to resolve the matter over the telephone were unsuccessful.
What I want to know is:  Who’s ever heard of such a thing?  What do you call that?  A bunch of people, a group of citizens, wants to come out of a building and the police prevent them from doing so, without their having committed any crime, or even suspected of a crime.  Without having harmed anyone.  It is clear, Madam Speaker, that what’s involved is something much more fundamental than a simple fear of disturbing the peace.  For only in a country so fearful of a public discussion, fearful of a public discussion of the injustices it committed in the past, and continues to commit, only such a country makes so determined and aggressive an effort to suppress a legitimate, quiet, non-violent protest.  Only a country with something to hide, only one that feels it’s guilty.  A country convinced of its innocence would not do such a thing.  Only a country aware of what it did in 1948 fears criticism.  And in this case it’s not even external criticism, but criticism from within, from its own citizens.  This is a country that fears its own citizens.  This is a country that fears both the truth and its own citizens.  This is a country that has something to hide.
For it’s clear, Madam Speaker, members of the Knesset, that legislation was even passed about this, so that everyone would be aware that no Israeli citizen should hear the word nakba, no pupil, no citizen would know it.  

Chair:  Orly Levi-Abekasis: No.  MK Hanin Zouabi, I must stress, for the record and perhaps for the few spectators that are present, that the legislation which was passed referred to public financing.  Funds usually intended for the educational system that would commemorate, on the one hand….

MK Zouabi:
Yes, Madam Chairman, I’m familiar with the legislation.  I know what the purpose of the legislation is.

Chair:
So that when we refer to legislation we should keep…

MK Zouabi:
The purpose of the legislation is clear.  Look, you and I are engaged in a political dispute; we’re not going to agree.

Chair:
I’m not talking about a political dispute.

MK Zouabi:
The purpose of the legislation is to suppress public discussion, to suppress public discussion.

Chair:
MK Hanin Zouabi, you can’t argue with facts.

MK Zouabi:
We’re not arguing.  It’s not my place to argue with you.

Chair:
I’m not arguing, I’m correcting.  The legislation does not forbid using the word nakba in Israel.  It forbids using public funds…

MK Zouabi:
I’m sorry – please.  I don’t want you to correct me.No, no, no – it’s not your place to correct me.  I know what the legislation says.  I’m a Knesset member like you.

Chair:
Let’s not mislead the public.

MK Zouabi:
I know what the purpose of the legislation is.  The purpose of the legislation is to censor public discussion.

Chair:
That’s not the purpose stated in the text of the legislation.

MK Zouabi:
You have the right to speak here; you can come and state your position.

Chair:
MK Zouabi, I intervened only after your time had expired.

MK Zouabi:
I don’t want you to correct me.

Chair:
I corrected an error so that the public would understand.

MK Zouabi:
No, no, no.  You’re not correcting an error.  I request you, as the chair, not to argue with me.  Why are you arguing with me at all?
Now let me say – with your permission, I’ll continue.  You role is to defend me, not to argue with me.  The purpose of the legislation and the aggressive action by the police…

Chair:
Alright, please conclude.

MK Zouabi:
…and of the state is to suppress a legitimate discussion in any normal, civil country.  That demonstrates, as I said, that the state fears the truth, fears its own citizens.

Chair:
Thank you very much, MK Hanin Zouabi, but if we’re talking about truth then the truth requires stating the stated title of the legislation in order not to mislead the public.  The reference is to the legislation proposed by MK Alex Miller, which states explicitly that funds allocated to the Ministry of Education shall not be used to commemorate that topic.

MK Zouabi:
No, no, that’s your political position.  I don’t believe that, as chair, you’re permitted to do that.  I don’t believe that’s your role.

Chair:
My role as chair is to intervene in matters I believe to be factual, and among other things, to lay facts on the table.

MK Zouabi:
That’s not your job.

Chair:
You spoke of truth.  I’m reporting the facts about the legislation that was adopted.

MK Zouabi
I have the floor.  Why don’t you respect that?  I have the floor.  Why are you arguing with me?

Chair:
MK Hanin Zouabi, you have exceeded your allotted time and I asked you to stop one minute after your time had elapsed in order to…

MK Zouabi:
It isn’t your job to argue with me.

Chair:
I’m not arguing.…to correct what is essentially a factual error.

MK Zouabi:
That’s not your job, that’s not your job.I don’t think that Yisrael Beiteinu is the last…

Chair:
MK Masud Ganaim, please.

MK Zouabi:
Now we’re…

Chair:
I’m not justifying or condemning the legislation.  I simply made a factual correction.

MK Zouabi_ _ _

Chair:
We won’t mislead the public, and if something must be said, my job is, even with respect to legislation introduced by another Knesset member…

MK Zouabi:
You’re the last…

Chair:
My job is to correct erroneous statements made here.  The argument is over.  I have nothing to argue with you about.

MK Zouabi:
You’re not speaking like a Chair, your speaking like a Knesset member from Yisrael Beiteinu.

Chair:
MK Hanin Zouabi, we’re now using the time allotted to your faction colleague.

MK Zouabi:
You know…

Minister of Sport and Culture Limor Livnat:
Madame Speaker, members of the Knesset.  I am responding on behalf of the Minister of Internal Security, Mr. Aharonovitz.  I will divide my response into two parts.  I will first apprise the public of the facts regarding the baseless accusations by MK Zouabi and MK Ganaim with respect to the matter involving the “Zochrot” organization on that day, the eve of Independence Day.  What they said simply has no basis.  Let me first present the facts.  In the second portion of my response I will discuss the activity – not the activity but the stories being told, so the public will know what “Zochrot” is, our viewers and others – so they’ll know what’s involved.
So, first of all, investigation of the facts shows that on Independence Eve a public event involving a very large crowd was held in Rabin Square, as it is every year on this date.  We’re happy to celebrate the 64th anniversary of Israel’s independence as we do each year, and, of course, preparations for the event include closing the nearby streets to vehicle traffic and establishing a secure area with a number of entrances where police officers and guards are stationed to conduct security inspections of everyone wishing to enter the area.  We see no need to apologize for doing so.
“Zochrot”’s offices are located on Mane Street, which is adjacent to Rabin Square and was one of the streets closed to vehicle traffic. Activists from the organization arrived carrying signs with the names of Arab villages, in order to conduct a demonstration which – please note – had not been coordinated with the police.  We’re talking about an event that draws a very large crowd on the eve of Independence Day, as it does each year.  But they don’t think they have to coordinate a demonstration with the police even though they know the entire area has been closed.  Despite this fact, and despite, above and beyond what the police were obligated to do, they fenced off an area to allow the protest to be held.  It should be noted that at no stage was the building blockaded.  Entries were not blocked, exits were not blocked, anyone wishing to leave was free to do so.  Because of the fear that protesters would create a provocation that would endanger public safety, the police officers prevented people carrying signs to enter the area where Independence Eve celebrations were underway.  I repeat:  they were permitted to stand with their protest signs in the area set aside for them, even though that hadn’t been coordinated in advance.  They were not allowed to take their signs into the area where Independence Eve celebrations were underway.  But – something that both MK Zouabi and MK Ganaim neglected to mention – during the event one of the protesters began yelling in support of shahid’s – shahid’s, may I remind you, the murders, the terrorists who massacre Jews here – to inflame the atmosphere.  He was asked to stop but refused, so it was decided to detain him for interrogation.

MK Zouabi_ _ _

Minister Livnat:
I don’t want to hear you – you’re lying, as usual.  We already listened to your lies on the Marmara.The Israel Police will continue to act firmly against…

MK Zouabi_ _ _

Chair:
MK Zouabi – Statements, not speeches

Minister Livnat:
Yes, yes, yes.  You already said what you wished, which was already too much.

MK Zouabi_ _ _

Minister Livnat:
We already heard your lies on the Marmara, and about other things.  The Israel Police will continue to act firmly against lawbreakers.
Now for the second portion of my response.  Up to now you’ve heard from the Israel Police – actually, the Minister of Internal Security, and the Israel Police, of course.  Now for the second portion of my response.  I viewed Zochrtot’s website on my iPhone and saw a number of items, including places.  Which Arab villages is Zochrot talking about, the ones they’re trying to present to the public?  The public should know what they’re talking about.  They show a map, with dots.  Dots, dots, dots.  Maybe you’re not familiar with the website.  I think you’re very familiar with it.  Dots, from the north of the country to the south, south of Beersheva.  And these dots, which are the villages they’re referring to, these dots are located everywhere in the state of Israel.  Not in Judea and Samaria, not in Gaza, not in what you call the “occupied territories,” not on private land or state land.

MK Zouabi:
So what?  Is that news to you?  What happened in ’48 ….

Minister Livnat:
I’ll tell you where.  Here, in Tel Aviv.  I found them in the Tel Aviv area, dozens of dots.  In Bat Yam, in Rishon LeZion, in Rehovot – they’re everywere.  In Bet Shemesh…

MK Zouabi_ _ _

Minister Livnat:
…in Netanya, in Or Akiva, around as well as within, everywhere.  Around all these areas.  In Tiberias, Madam Speaker. They’re everywhere.  In Bet Shean.  They’re everywhere.  The entire state of Israel is occupied territory in your eyes, members of the Knesset, members of Parliament, in which you’re sitting, in the parliament of a democratic state, which, after all, doesn’t exist in any Arab country.

MK Zouabi:
It doesn’t exist?

Minister Livnat:
And you’re sitting here, in this Knesset, which for some reason permits you to stand at this podium, on this platform and to spew accusations, hatred, incitement against the Israeli public, that allows you to board a ship of hatred for the country.

MK Zouabi:
…The Palestinians were here first.

Chair:
MK Zouabi.

Minister Livnat:
I suggest you go to the internet site and see what…

MK Zouabi¬¬¬_ _ _

Chair:
You didn’t want to be interrupted.  I’ve allowed you to interrupt a few times, maybe even more than a few.  Another Speaker might also have cautioned you.  Please.  Let’s bring this to a close appropriately and let the Minister finish what she has to say.

Minister Livnat:
What normal, democratic state would even allow you to mount this podium to incite against and express hatred for the country you live in.  Tell me, is there such a state?  I want to ask you a question:  Is there any state, one Arab state, which would allow a Jew, an ordinary Jew, not someone engaged in incitement, to stand and speak against the country he lives in?  He wouldn’t last a minute. There’s capital punishment.  We spoke of it earlier – you weren’t here – the Palestinian legislation regarding someone who sells land to Jews.

MK Zouabi:
That’s the history.  I’m trying to respond.  I have an answer for you…

Minister Livnat:
Is there even one such country?  You stand here, you received the right to stand here, but you use it to incite against the country’s citizens, to praise the shahids – you come here, you come accusing the police of blockading the offices of that organization…

MK Zouabi_ _ _

Minister Livnat:
…that organization which comes to incite, to explain that allegedly all these areas here – here, because there’s an application that allows you to search for a Palestinian locality by entering its full name, or part of the name.
Type in a name or a location of somewhere in Israel to see what used to be there.  I typed Ramat Aviv and found Sheikh Muwanis.  So here, here’s…

Chair:
MK Masud Ganaim, Minister Livnat has the right…my job is to defend here and allow her to say what she has to say.

MK Masud Ganaim (Ra”am/Ta”al)_ _ _

Chair:
I think I have been extremely patient regarding interruptions from the floor.

Chair:
That’s correct, as well as your colleague’s interruptions, even though I’ve been told I should have called you once to order.  I still believe that we can bring this to a close, to finish the topic respectfully.  Thank you.  Please, Madam Minister.

Minister Livnat:
Respectfully?  There’s no respect here, Madam Speaker.  That is - of course, you certainly deserve respect.

Chair:
An excited person can sometimes be respected as well.

Minister Livnat:
Yes, but how respectful is the behavior of those MK’s?  How respectful is someone who writes that Ramat Aviv is Sheikh Muwanis and demands, insists, that it again be Sheikh Muwanis, and sits here, in this parliament, in this Knesset – how respectful can that be?  I’m not referring to you, of course – God forbid.  How respectful can that be?  They demand, insist that it be Sheikh Muwanis once again - it’s unbelievable.  The argument over Judea and Samaria, the political argument, the argument over negotiations, about the future, how it will look, will there be peace with the Palestinian Authority, what negotiations, what kind of negotiations - that’s an argument, that’s a political discussion.  That’s a legitimate discussion.  But then to come and claim…

MK Zouabi_ _ _

Minister Livnat:
Look, no one hears your interruptions, but even if someone did hear them, even if your interruptions were heard, they’re downright lies, not just about the past but also about what you’re doing now.  You lied when you were aboard the Marmara and you lied when you disembarked from the Marmara.

MK Zouabi:
But…I didn’t lie…

Minister Livnat:
You lied all the time, you’re a liar.  You lied when you boarded, you lied when you disembarked.

MK Zouabi…I didn’t lie…

Minister Livnat:
Don’t interrupt me.  Madam Speaker, I ask to be allowed to talk.

Chair:
MK Zouabi.

Minister LivnatI can’t speak under these conditions.  Who’s ever heard of such a thing.

Chair:
MK Hanin Zouabi.  MK Hanin Zouabi, I’m asking you.  I’m asking you, one more interruption and I will call  you to order.

MK Nizzim Ze’ev (Shas):
But lies are her truth – that’s obvious.  Everyone has their own truth.

Chair:
MK Nissim Ze’ev, don’t add insult to injury.  We’re trying to calm things down.

MK Zouabi_ _ _

Chair:
MK Nissim Ze’ev, let’s try to finish the day without unnecessary ejections from the plenum – but I’ll eject people if you don’t give me any choice.

MK Zouabi:
I….

Chair:
MK Zouabi, I call you to order for the first time.  Please.

Minister Livnat:
By now this should have been the sixteenth time you’d called her to order.

Chair:I’m more patient about calling people to order.  We’re usually able to control the debate.  When it’s not possible, we use that as a last resort.

MK Livnat:
Fine, but the Minister must be allowed to speak.  This can’t happen.

Chair:
If you please, Madam Minister, there are MK’s who later use expulsion from the plenum as a platform and perhaps even as the goal of the debate.  I try not to let it happen when I’m in the chair.  If you please, I apologize if it took you a little longer to say what you wished, if you had to be patient.  I know how patient you can be, so I’m asking you now as well.

Minister Livnat:
I have no quarrel with you, Madam Speaker.  But I believe the interruptions to what I was saying were immoderate and excessive.  I should be permitted to respond, even if what I have to say might not be to someone’s liking – apparently they don’t like them.  What was said here from the podium was not at all to my liking, but I sat quietly at my place, even though I also know how to shout.
In any case, as I said, I divided my response into two parts.  I ask that, after the yelling has stopped, the first part of my response not be forgotten – that no blockade was ever imposed, that one of their activists praised shahids and was detained for interrogation as a result, and all the accusations are baseless, without foundation.  The police investigation has found the claims made here earlier lack any basis.  Thank you.  I’ll conclude with that.  Thank you very much.

Chair:
Thank you Madam Minister of Culture and Sport, Madam Limor Livnat.  I ask the submitters whether this has been sufficient?

MK Ganaim Plenum.

Chair:
Plenum. We move to the vote.  Removing the topic from the agenda vs. raising it in the plenum.  A vote in favor is a vote in support of a full discussion in the plenum.  A vote against is a vote to remove the topic from the agenda.  In favor – to raise the topic in the plenum.  Against – to remove the topic from the agenda.  We will now please vote.  Against – to remove the topic from the agenda; in favor – for a full discussion in the plenum.
Vote No. 19
In favor of placing the topic on the agenda – 2.
In favor of removing the topic from the agenda – 3.
Abstentions – none.
The motion not to include the topic on the Knesset’s agenda has passed.

Translation to English: Charles Kamen

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