An unusual act for a democracy – Israeli Knesset suspends 3 Arab members. I ask Minister Dion to investigate


arab trio

The Ethics Committee of the Israeli Knesset has suspended 3 Arab Members of Knesset (MK). That is very unusual in a democracy. Two of them have visited Canada in the last several years. Why were they suspended?  What does it say about Israeli democracy? I ask Hon. Stéphane Dion to investigate. Read my letter. 

In a very unusual move for a democracy, the Israeli Knesset has suspended 3 of its Arab members. The committee justified the suspensions on the grounds that the three Arab MKs had visited the relatives of two Palestinian Israeli boys killed by Israeli police several days ago. Israel has so far refused to return the bodies to the families.

Israel accuses the two boys of “terrorism” (a term used quite liberally in Israel against any act of Palestinian resistance), and accuses the MKs of supporting terrorism because they showed solidarity with the families.


Dr. Jamal Zahalka MK, a pharmacist, visited Ottawa and Montreal in 2009

zoabi cjpme

Haneen Zoabi toured eastern Canada in 2010 with CJPME

MK Jamal Zahalka was in Montreal and Ottawa in 2009. MK Haneen Zoabi was in Canada in 2010 as a guest of CJPME. She visited several cities. It is not known if the 3rd MK Basel Ghattas, has visited Canada in the past.


The ‘miserable, anti-democratic suspensions’ were severely denounced by all members of the Joint Arab list, including a Jewish MK.

The presence of 13 non-Jewish Arab MK’s (out of a total of 120 members in the Israeli Knesset) is one of the arguments used by Israel to bolster its claim to be “the only democracy in the middle east”. However, suspension of Parliamentarians in democracies is very unusual. Unfortunately, in Israel non-Jewish MK’s are constantly harassed and threatened with expulsion or even treason.

On the same day, the government approved legislation that would allow the Jewish members of the Knesset to suspend Arab members for “unseemly behavior.”

‘The definition of democracy is shut up, shut up, the majority rules”, Education Minister Naftali Bennett is reported to have recently told a group of school children. In Canada and in most normal democracies, the right of minorities to speak up is protected.

All three suspended MK’s are non Jewish and members of the Balad party which calls for complete equality and democracy for both Jews and non-Jews in Israel (“a state of all its citizens”). While most Canadians would find this position very normal, Israel sees itself as a “Jewish” state. Questioning the special legal status of Jews in Israel is considered by some as tantamount to treason.

I have written a letter to Global Affairs Minister Stephane Dion, asking him to make inquiry into this sorry anti-democratic development. I have copied the foreign affairs critics of the other parties. Please feel free to send your own letter to Hon. Dion with a copy to all your friends.

A copy of my letter follows.


Honourable Stephane Dion

Minister of Global Affairs

Dear Minister Dion,

On Monday, February 8th, the Israeli Knesset suspended 3 of its Arab members. Their alleged crime? Trying to help the families of two young Palestinian boys retrieve their bodies from Israeli authorities. I do not know if, as Israel claims, the young boys were terrorists or not. Nonetheless, it seems entirely appropriate for elected representatives to assist aggrieved families in their claim to have bodies returned to their families for a decent burial.

The suspension of Parliamentarians is a highly unusual act in most democracies. The Israeli government has now approved legislation which makes it possible for its Jewish majority in the Knesset to suspend its non-Jewish minority.  Unfortunately, this is only part of a climate in which Arab Israeli members of Knesset face an ongoing campaign of harassment, intimidation and threats.

I urge you to express your concern over this unusual act, and ask the Israeli government for a full explanation.

Thank you for your attention

Peter Larson

Canada Talks Israel Palestine

  • cc. Hon. Tony Clement (
  • Mme. Hélène Laverdière (
  • Mme. Elisabeth May (
  • Hon. Catherine McKenna, MP for Ottawa Centre (

One comment

  1. Peter, thanks for making the contact with our Minister. Those familiar with action taken by the government of Israel over the years will not be surprised by this latest move. Without the threat of losing the respect of other Nations Israel fells free to pursue policies inconsistent with its claim to be a Democracy.

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