Arab MK Suspended as Knesset Deputy Speaker

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Arab Israeli Knesset member Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) will not serve as deputy speaker during the summer session.

The Knesset's Ethics Committee suspended Tibi after he poured water on a copy of a controversial piece of legislation at the podium, damaging the electric microphone and amplifier.

The bill, based on what's known as the Prawer-Begin plan, is part of a continuing effort to address Bedouin settlement in the Negev Desert where the once nomadic tribes have encroached on tens of thousands of acres illegally.

The bill gives recognition and legal ownership to 63 percent of the land they're living on, while relocating 30,000 Bedouin to recognized Negev towns and providing compensation for land claims.

The bill calls for "the development of the Negev for the benefit of all of its residents…a national task of the highest order."

"In order to realize this national goal to its fullest, the issue of the Bedouin settlement in the Negev must first be regularized," the bill states.

But for pro-Palestinian activists in Israel and abroad, that's not enough. They see it as another opportunity to protest against Jewish ownership of the land.

At least five other Arab MKs tore up copies of the bill on the Knesset floor, one calling for a third intifada (armed Palestinian uprising) should the bill pass. 

Controversy is not new to many of them. Balad MK Haneen Zoabi frequently joins anti-Israel protests. Last Wednesday, she took part in a demonstration in Nazareth, where she and a couple of others blocked the car of Upper Nazareth Mayor Shimon Gapso.

The Jerusalem Post posted a video with the story of her holding a Palestinian flag and chanting with the protesters. Later she accused the mayor of being a symbol of racism in the country.

When asked about it, the mayor said "Maybe because I insistently declare that Nazareth-Illit will remain a Jewish city despite the Arabs' intention to change it."

In 2010, Zoabi accompanied pro-Palestinian activists aboard the Turkish-owned flagship Mavi Mamara, where a confrontation with Israeli naval commandos resulted in the deaths of nine activists. Later, the Ethics Committee temporarily suspended her of some parliamentary rights.

Azmi Bishara, a former Balad Knesset member, is in self-imposed exile after providing Hezbollah terrorists with logistical information during the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2010.

Despite being a member of Israel's Knesset, Ahmed Tibi has identified himself as a representative of Palestine in meetings abroad.

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