State Prosecutor Says Calling Arab Lawmaker ‘Terrorist’ is ‘Freedom of Speech’

Israel’s state prosecutor’s office said on Monday, July 1, that referring to lawmakers of the Ra’am (United Arab List) Islamist party as “terrorists” is considered “protected speech”. The statement came in response to MK Waleed Alhwashla’s (Ra’am) request to revoke racist National Missions and for Settlement Minister Orit Strock’s immunity in order to file an indictment against her for inflammatory remarks she made about Arab party members.

In May, Strock said Ra’am lawmakers were “a terrible predatory beast in sheep’s clothing, terrorists in a suit and tie and a sweet smile”, adding that there won’t be another government in Israel with members of the party.

“You are a member of Hamas”, said Orit Strock to MK Walid Taha (Ra’am) during a debate at the Knesset plenum, January 10, 2024 (Footage: Knesset Channel)

The state prosecutor’s office rejected Alhwashla’s request to press charges, stating that Strock’s statement was “protected under the freedom of expression in general, and in particular freedom of political expression – which is especially broad”. Strock is a far-right settler who has called for the “absolute elimination” of the Palestinian people and advocated for the expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. She has also called for an Israeli state “from the river to the sea”.

Two Arab-Palestinian lawmakers, MKs Aida Touma-Suleiman (Hadash) and Iman Khatib (Ra’am), were banned from hearings and votes for two months over remarks they made following the 7 October Hamas-led deadly incursion into southern Israel. Similarly, Hadash MK Ofer Cassif was suspended for 45 days and had his salary deducted for drawing parallels between the Holocaust and Israel’s war on Gaza, where over 37,953 people have been killed since 7 October. Last March, in a TV interview with Israel’s Channel 7, Strock called for Israel to return to settlements in the Gaza Strip and claimed that Gaza “is part of the Land of Israel, and a day will come when we will return to it.”