Israel, which has continued to embrace more racist and Apartheid policies under extremist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, moved this week to expel a non-Jewish member of the Israeli Knesset for criticizing racist Israeli policies against Christians and Muslims. The Israeli Knesset is using the Apartheid “Expulsion Law” against non-Jewish, Palestinian Knesset Member Dr. Basel Ghattas (Jitas)
In a discussion today, Tuesday March 14, 2017, the Israeli Knesset Committee discussed ousting the Palestinian Knesset Member (MK) Dr. Basel Ghattas (‘Tajammu/Balad) (Jitas) from the parliament.
At the end of its meeting, the committee decided to postpone the vote to Monday March 20, 2017. The vote on Monday will be the initial vote, the first among a series of required procedures as mandated by the “Expulsion Law”.
Ghattas is a Christian Palestinian Israeli “citizen” from the occupied Christian city of Nazareth.
This law, enacted in 2016, allows a majority of 90 Knesset Members (MKs) to oust a serving MK for denying the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and/or for supporting the armed struggle of an “enemy state” or a “terrorist organization” against Israel. The law was used today for the first time against MK Ghattas.
MK Basel Ghattas stated that using the law against him is part of the “tyranny of the majority against the minority”. It is an attempt by the Israeli Jewish majority in the Knesset to further delegitimize and persecute the elected political representatives of the Palestinian community in Israel purely on political and ideological grounds. Further, the law enables court-martial-like proceedings against Palestinian political representatives, despite the existence of other Israeli law that allows for the suspension of MKs in cases involving criminal offenses.
“The Expulsion Law must be seen in the context of Israeli attempts to silence the Palestinian public and its political representatives, starting with attempts to disqualify Arab Members of Knesset and Arab political party lists from participating in the elections for the last 15 years. Further, moves include the government’s decision to outlaw the Islamic Movement in 2015, and the Knesset’s approval of a series of laws such as the “Electoral Threshold Law”, the “Nakba Law”, and the “Boycott Law”,” MK Dr. Ghattas added.
The Knesset procedures against MK Dr. Ghattas today follows on from allegations against him for trying to assist Palestinian prisoners, who are prevented from communicating with the outside world, by delivering cell phones to a Palestinian political prisoner incarcerated in an Israeli prison.
Previously, in an unprecedented move, the Israeli Attorney General decided to indict MK Dr. Ghattas for the alleged offenses without first affording him a hearing, as guaranteed by law and customarily granted to public figures. On 5 January 2017, the Attorney General submitted a notice to the Speaker of the Knesset informing that he decided to indict MK Dr. Ghattas, and called on the Knesset to begin the process of revoking his parliamentary immunity for purposes of indictment. Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, on behalf of MK Dr. Ghattas, argued that the AG’s process constitutes a violation of his right to due process, and that he must withdraw his announcement and provide MK Dr. Ghattas with a hearing before deciding on whether or not to indict him, a right that was granted to Israeli public figures even in cases of alleged rape and serious finance-related charges.
MK Dr. Ghattas was also interrogated by police and arrested on 22 December 2016. He was detained for five days – over his Christmas holiday – followed by 10 days of house arrest, following the revocation of his parliamentary procedural immunity. These acts of arrest, detention, the search of his home and office, and the house arrest of a sitting MK are exceptional and unprecedented. While numerous other MKs, ministers and public figures face investigation (and eventual prosecution and punishment) in Israel, none have been treated in this severe manner and denied their right to due process.
The state used the charges against MK Ghattas for an intense campaign of delegitimization against him, as well as other Palestinian political representatives in Knesset. News of the allegations against him was leaked to the media even before he was ever called for a police interview.
Basel Ghattas was born in 1956 in Nazareth. He holds an MA in Business Administration from a joint program of Northwestern University and Tel-Aviv University, and a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from the Technion.
Basel Ghattas is a founder of the Masira Fund that supports persons with disabilities and the Galilee Fund in the UK to support students with scholarships. He serves as a member of the boards of directors of NGOs dealing with cultural and art, and between 2007 and 2012 he managed and published the financial journal Malakom.
Ghattas was first elected to the 19th Knesset on the National Democratic Assembly (Balad) list and is a member of the Knesset State Control Committee and acting member of the Finance Committee. In addition, Ghattas was a member of the Lobby to Promote the Employment of Arab Women Academics.
In the 20th Knesset, Ghattas was elected as a member of the Joint List (Balad Hadash Ta’al United Arab List) and is a member of the Knesset Finance Committee and Special Committee on the Discussion on the Public Broadcast Bill 2015 (Amendment) 5775-2015. He also chaired the Lobby for the Development of the Arab Economy, and is a member of the Lobby on Rare Diseases and Orphan Diseases, and the Lobby for the Advancement of Education in Arab Society.
Ghattas writes articles for Arabic and Hebrew newspapers, as well as monthly articles for Malakom. He is married and has a daughter. Ghattas resides in Kfar Rameh.
|Knesset 19||5.2.2013 – 31.3.2015|
|Knesset 19||Member, House Committee|
|Member, State Control Committee|
|Alternate Member, Finance Committee|
|Knesset 20||Member, Finance Committee*|
|Member, Special Committee for Discussion on the Public Broadcast Bill 2015*|
|Knesset 19||Member, Lobby to Promote the Employment of Arab Women Academics|
|Knesset 20||Chair, Lobby for the Development of the Arab Economy*|
|Member, Lobby for Rare Diseases and Orphan Diseases*|
|Member, Lobby for the Advancement of Education in the Arab Sector*|
|Knesset 19||National Democratic Assembly|
|Knesset 20||Joint List (Hadash, Raam, Balad, Taal)|
|– Director and publisher – Malakom economic magazine (in Arabic) 2007-2012
– Co-founder of the Maseera Foundation for support of Arabs with disabilities
– Co-founder of the Galilee Foundation in England to support Arab university students
– Board member in number of NGO`s in culture and art
|Monthly article for Malakom magazine|
|Op-ed and articles in the Hebrew and Arabic media|