Knesset House Committee Chairman Yoav Kish (Likud) cancelled on Wednesday, June 20, a debate that had been scheduled to held the same day on the police’s grappling with crime organizations in the Arab community. Kish cited the participation of MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash), head of the Joint List, in a Palestinian-Russian event in occupied East Jerusalem on Monday last week as his justification for calling off the debate.
On Monday evening, June 18, Israeli police broke up the event, sponsored by the Russian Embassy in Israel, shortly after it began in East Jerusalem’s Ambassador Hotel, claiming it had been organized by “terror organizations.” A number of Palestinian dignitaries from Jerusalem attending the event, which marked Russia’s National Day, were detained. They were later released but were interrogated the following day. According to the invitation to the event, it was being sponsored by the Russian Embassy and the Palestinian-Russian Friendship Society.
In the order issued to break up the conference, Jerusalem Police commander Yoram Halevy claimed that it had been organized by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine – both of which Israel sees as terror organizations – and its purpose was to focus on “the declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.” Based on these police claims, Kish contended that Odeh, who had initiated Wednesday’s committee debate is, as an attendee at the conference, a “supporter of terror and against the existence of the state.”
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein filed a complaint against Odeh to the Ethics Committee for attending the event. In addition, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan asked the attorney general to open a criminal investigation against Odeh for “assisting a declared terror organization.”
The House Committee’s debate that Kish cancelled was in preparation of a special day of discussions scheduled to take place next month dealing with crime in the Arab community. Four other committees are also slated to discuss the issue, as well is the Knesset plenum.
MK Odeh said in response to the committee chairman’s action that “dealing with crime organizations in the Arab community and the value of human life apparently mean nothing to Kish, who cancelled the debate based on falsehoods and for half a headline.”
“The same MKs and ministers who don’t miss any opportunity to lie and incite against me personally are hurting the Arab public as a whole,” said Odeh, adding that the racist rightist government is spearheading a campaign “to delegitimize the Arab public.”
Last week 68 MKs from both the coalition and opposition urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to act to quell the violence and crime rampant in Arab society. The letter, initiated by Hadash MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List), said a budgeted plan is required to deal with the causes of the violence and crime, and mainly with education and social services. Jabareen said violence has become the main concern of Arabs in Israel.