A marathon debate in the Knesset on coronavirus restrictions began rancorously on Monday night, July 26, as Kahanist lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir (Religious Zionism) called Deputy Knesset Speaker Ahmed Tibi (Joint List) a “terrorist.” The racist Ben-Gvir was forcefully removed from the Knesset podium and ejected from the plenum.
Ben-Gvir, who took to the podium during a debate began his address by saying, “With the permission of the Knesset speaker, mister minister, your excellency,” referring to the dignitaries in the hall but notably not to Tibi, who, as deputy Knesset speaker, was filling in at the time for speaker Mickey Levy.
MK Tibi, who heads the Ta’al faction in the Joint List, interrupted Ben-Gvir and demanded to be addressed as “Mr. Deputy Speaker,” as is Knesset tradition. Ben-Gvir responded, “You are a terrorist, not a sir or a mister. You should be in the Knesset in Syria, not here.”
Tibi then ordered the Knesset Guard to remove Ben-Gvir from the podium and then the plenum, but the firebrand MK held on to the podium before being physically dragged from the hall. Levy, who arrived at Tibi’s side, backed him up as Tibi repeatedly demanded that Ben-Gvir be forcibly removed from the plenum.
Tibi also released a statement, slamming Ben-Gvir for his slur and for refusing to leave the plenum, forcing the Knesset Guard to remove him. “This is disgusting, violent and racist behavior that must be stopped,” Tibi said, adding that the incident would be brought before the yet-to-be-formed Knesset Ethics Committee. Labor faction chairman Ram Shefa said Ben-Gvir should be ashamed of himself. “Your lowly provocations give the Knesset a bad name,” Shefa told Ben-Gvir.
Ben-Gvir entered the Knesset in last March’s election after merging his racist Otzma Yehudit party with far-right Religious Zionism, in a deal brokered by then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Otzma Yehudit is made up of followers of the late racist rabbi Meir Kahane, a former MK whose Kach party was banned from the Knesset in the 1980s — the first instance in Israel of a party being banned for racism.