Gaza flotilla raid pushes unknown Knesset member into spotlight
Hanin Zoabi, who was aboard the Mavi Marmara when it was seized Monday by Israeli commandos, has stepped up as a leading domestic critic of her government's Gaza flotilla raid. Meanwhile, senior statesman Ehud Barak faces calls for his resignation.
Reverberations within Israel from Monday's deadly raid on the Gaza flotilla are thrusting an unknown Arab-Israeli parliamentarian into the spotlight while Defense Minister Ehud Barak faces intense criticism over the botched operation that left at least nine dead.Skip to next paragraph
As Mr. Barak withstands a barrage of calls for his resignation, freshman parliament member Hanin Zoabi has emerged as a leading domestic critic of her government, calling their military operation "criminal."
"She is becoming a star even though she has a reputation for being quiet,'' says Saed Adawi, an editor at the Israeli Arab Kul el Arab online news site. "She displayed bravery.''
Ms. Zoabi was aboard the Mavi Marmara, one of six ships in the so-called Freedom Flotilla that attempted to break Israel's three-year blockade on the Gaza Strip and bring in 10,000 tons of humanitarian supplies. She was detained, along with more than 600 others, when Israeli naval forces rerouted all six ships to Ashdod port.
Since the incident, the Israeli Foreign Ministry has launched an intense media campaign, posting videos on its website and YouTube that portray its soldiers as victims of pre-meditated violence from activists aboard the Mavi Marmara.
Zoabi: 'Are you sure of the Israeli story?'
Zoabi was released from police custody Tuesday because of her parliamentary immunity, and today addressed Israeli parliament in a fiery speech challenging Israel's narrative that clashes were started by club-wielding activists.
"Israel spoke of a provocation, but there was no provocation," she told the Knesset. "Why does the government of Israel oppose an investigation? Are you sure of the Israeli story?"
Her address to the Israeli Knesset was repeatedly interrupted by Jewish lawmakers calling her a traitor and shouting, "Go to Gaza, traitor!"
In a televised address Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Israel's critics of "hypocrisy."
But Zoab has not tempered her rhetoric. During a press conference Tuesday, according to Ynet news, she said: "It was clear from the size of the force that boarded the ship that the purpose was not only to stop this sail, but to cause the largest possible number of fatalities in order to stop such initiatives in the future."