What is there to say?

Russian-born Anastasia Michaeli, a member of the Israeli Knesset elected on the Yisrael Beitenu party list headed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, previously distinguished herself by throwning herself physically at, at attempting to assault, Nazareth-born Knesset member Haneen Zoabi during a hearing on Zoabi’s role on the Mavi Marmara, headed to Gaza as part of the Freedom Flotilla which was intercepted at sea by the Israeli Navy in May 2010.

Now, Michaeli has one-upped even herself.

After interrupting, and trying — during a recent Knesset committee debate — to drown out the words of her Knesset colleage Ghaleb Majadele, by shouting with visible contempt, Michaeli gets up and goes over to stand near him, then suddenly throws a glass of water on Majadele, who, like Zoabi, is an elected Knesset member and an Israeli citizen of Palestinian/Arab origin. It is shocking, and ugly … domestic violence of the worst sort.

Knesset TV image published in Haaretz

Haneen Zoabi, in a white shirt and black jumper, is seated almost next to Majadele, and reacts with instant shock, then a knowing smile.

Despite this physical attack, the Committee Chairperson does not intervene, nor does the Knesset security guard, who appears to go out of his way to avoid physically touching MK Michaeli …

    UPDATE: as the report of the attack went virtually viral on the internet, the Knesset Ethics committee acted the next day, Tuesday morning, to rebuke Michaeli by barring her from the Knesset for one month. It is a minimum punishment. Overnight, an editorial written by Natan Zahavi wasd published in the Hebrew-language newspaper Ma’ariv which, according to a summary translation provided by the Israeli Government Press Office, “refers to yesterday’s incident in which MK Anastasia Michaeli deliberately spilled a glass of water on MK Raleb Majdele and asserts that, ‘Spilling water in front of the cameras brought the Israeli parliament into the pantheon of the world’s primitive legislatures in which MPs trade punches, throw things and curse each other’. The author believes that MK Michaeli’s act, ‘is causing Israel to be portrayed as primitive and racist’, and urges Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, ‘who has been making super-human efforts to elevate the Knesset and its members’, to punish her as strongly as the Knesset by-laws allow”.

    The Knesset Ethics Committee’s website, here, informs us that “Rules of ethics of the Knesset demand that any member dedicates his/her time as needed to protect the honor of the Knesset and its members, and to behave in an appropriate and fitting manner as bespeaks his/her public position without taking advantage of the right to immunity … Within the framework of its responsibility, the Ethics Committee may place various sanctions on a Knesset member. These sanctions include a comment, an admonition, a reprimand, or a severe reprimand. Any decision of the Ethics Committee may be publicized with the name of the relevant Knesset member. Similarly, the committee may place any of the following restrictions on a Knesset member’s parliamentary activity: Suspension from Plenum sittings for up to six months; revoking the right to speak in the Plenum or in a committee for up to ten meetings; prohibiting the MK from proposing a bill or making a motion for the agenda … [However] The Ethics Committee is not allowed to restrict the right of a Knesset member to vote.

The attack was reported Monday by Ami Kaufman on +972 Magazine, here, and the link was posted on Twitter.

Kaufman’s story contains a video of what happened, with English subtitles. The video is also viewable [apparently without explanatory subtitles] on Youtube, here.

Kaufman writes, about Michaeli: “This person disgusts me. I can’t say it any more directly than that. She, and probably most of her party colleagues, think the worst of Arabs. They think they are the light unto nations, bringing European, civilized culture to Israel and its parliament. You tell me, who is civilized? Who is the primitive one? This is what happens when the right wing is drunk with power. It won’t end with water”.

Thanks to a link from the Angry Arab newsblog tonight, here, a response by MK Michaeli — who is apparently trying to re-brand this scene from ethnic insult to a feminist issue — is now available. According to the report, in French here, Michaeli has issued a statement defending her action, saying “The time when a man could publicly insult and act violently towards a woman is over … I think that using water is an excellent way to lower the temperature”. [“Dans un communiqué, Mme Michaeli a défendu son geste ‘L’époque où un homme pouvait insulter publiquement et agir violemment envers une femme est révolue’, a-t-elle affirmé, ajoutant: ‘Je pense que l’eau est un excellent moyen de faire baisser la température’.”]

She has to explain the business about throwing water on the face of a colleague … which is unusual, even in the Knesset. I keep thinking it looks like domestic violence … whereas calling on an opponent to “Shut up!” is perhaps impolite, but not a physical attack, and is in any case much more run-of-the-mill.

UPDATE: Haaretz has also reported this story, here, which I just discovered thanks to this Tweet by Max Blumenthal:
@MaxBlumenthal – Watch a former non-Jewish St. Petersburg beauty queen elevated to power in Israel dump water on Arab member of Knesset = bit.ly/y61Glx

The Haaretz article provided this background of how it started, including a partial transcript:

    “The argument erupted after MK Danny Danon (Likud) called for the dismissal of the principal of a school in the Negev town of Arara, who took students on a human rights march held in Tel Aviv last month. The Knesset discussion was held following a Haaretz report that the Education Ministry reprimanded the Israeli-Arab high school.   ‘You are marching against the state’ Michaeli shouted at Majadele, who answered back, ‘Shut up’. He then added, ‘She won’t shut me up. This is not Yisrael Beiteinu. Fascism will not be allowed to take over the house’. Michaeli replied, ‘It is disrespectful to the status of women in the Knesset. We will discuss the matter in the Ethics Committee’.  At a certain point in the argument, as it appeared that Michaeli was about to leave the room to calm down, she poured a cup of water and threw the contents at Majadele. Following that, she left the room in fury.  Majadele turned to Committee Chairperson, MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beiteinu), and said,  ‘That says it all. I’m sure you wouldn’t condone such wild and fascist behavior. I’m telling you, I’m excited. This is predictable. We’ll take this matter to the Ethics Committee and we’ll call her to order’. This is not the first time Michaeli has been involved in a violent confrontation with an Arab Knesset member. During a stormy parliamentary debate about the Gaza flotilla last June, Michaeli forced her way over to MK Hanin Zuabi (Balad), who was trying to address the plenum from the Knesset podium, and attempted to forcefully remove Zuabi while blocking the microphone.  Michaeli was reprimanded for physically interrupting the speech of her colleague, while Zuabi was sanctioned for participating in the 2010 Turkish-sponsored flotilla to Gaza”.

In any case, Michaeli apparently failed to convince the Knesset Ethics committee that the insult was to her…

FURTHER UPDATE: The Jerusalem Post has finally covered this story, here, and is considerably more sympathetic to Michaeli’s version of events, though it does quote Majadele as saying: “For his part, Majadele said that never before had an MK poured water over a fellow-MK. According to the Labor MK, he asked her not to interrupt him, and when she did not listen to him, or to Knesset Chairman Reuven Rivlin, he told her to ‘shut up’. In a subsequent interview with Israel Radio, the Arab MK said that the incident was racist, and that Michaeli would never have done the same thing to a Jew. ‘I wasn’t surprised by her behavior… she’s done similar things to MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) in past’, he added. He went on to say that he has been through a lot over the years, and is not bothered by such incidents”…