The Knesset plenum, photo by Itzik Edri
An expanded panel of seven Supreme Court Justices yesterday (February 13, 2013) dismissed a petition filed by MK Hanin Zoabi together with Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. The petition was filed as a result of the outgoing Knesset’s decision to revoke her parliamentary rights following statements she made during the Gaza flotilla incident in May 2010.
The court explained that the rationale behind the decision to dismiss the petition was that since the dissolution of the 18th Knesset rendered its decision to revoke MK Zoabi’s parliamentary rights inconsequential, the Court saw no reason to “devote its limited resources to an examination of a theoretical question.”
Adalah and ACRI responded by making clear that “the court finished hearing arguments on this case months before the Knesset decided to call for early elections, and had a judgment been handed down in a timely manner, we could have prevented the adoption of an illegal and undemocratic step that exemplifies the tyranny of the majority.”
The 18th Knesset revoked, among other parliamentary rights, MK Zoabi’s diplomatic passport and her right to be indemnified for legal expenses.
In the petition, Attorneys Hassan Jabareen from Adalah and Dan Yakir from ACRI argued that the revocation of Zoabi’s rights sets dangerous precedent that enables representatives of the majority in the Knesset to “punish” Knesset members for their political views, which contradicts the main purpose of parliamentary immunity: to protect the freedom of political activity of all Knesset representatives in an equal manner. Such a precedent would gravely undermine minority representatives’ freedom of political expression and the right to equality.
The petitioners further asserted that the Knesset operated on an erroneous legal assumption that substantive immunity is intended to protect members of the Knesset only from the executive branch, and not from the Knesset itself.