The swearing in of the 120 members of the 24th Knesset took place Tuesday afternoon, April 6, amidst the looming threat of yet a fifth election, just hours after President Reuven Rivlin mandated far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to attempt to form the next governing coalition.
However, when the swearing in ceremony began, four of the Joint List MKs, Ayman Odeh, Aida Touma-Sliman and Ofer Cassif, all from Hadash, along with Balad’s Sami Abu Shahadeh, declared their commitment to struggle against racism, the occupation and for democracy instead of reciting the formal pledge of loyalty as MKs in Israel’s Knesset. The four left the plenum before the singing of the national anthem, HaTikva (The Hope). In response, the new Kahanist MK, the arch-racist Itamar Ben-Gvir from the Religious Zionist Party, demanded that their parliamentary membership be invalidated because their “oath was not valid.”
As the Knesset held it swearing-in ceremony, dozens of human rights, women’s and LGBTQ organizations gathered outside the gates of the Knesset demanding that the new MKs not allow the formation of a government with parties like the Religious Zionist Party that promote racism and the hatred of women and the LGBTQ community.
Hundreds of protesters, among them Hadash and Communist Party activists, waved Israeli, rainbow and red flags and held signs reading “This is a fight for our lives” and “women deserve a seat at the table.” Among the organizations involved were many of Israel’s major women’s and LGBTQ groups including Wizo, Na’amat, Women of the Wall, the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, The Agudah – Israel’s LGBT Task Force, The Israel Women’s Network, Israel Gay Youth, and Rabbis for Human Rights.
“A red line has been crossed in the legitimization of extremist parties by having them in the Knesset,” event organizers said in a statement. “These parties promote homophobia and misogyny and promise to fight us on every front. These people must not make decisions about our lives and we must not give them a place in the coalition and government.”