Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit made a decision on Tuesday to indict former Balad MK Hanin Zoabi with criminal fraud offenses, subject to a hearing.
The charges involve massive financial irregularities in the Balad party she represented, one of the parties that comprise the Arab nationalist Joint List faction.
Zoabi will be charged with forging documents submitted to the State Comptroller in the years 2013-2016 and fraudulently misrepresenting the sources of millions of shekels in the party’s coffers, which reportedly stemmed from foreign sources.
“After considering the substance of the claims at the hearing and the legal opinion presented to me, I reached the general conclusion that there is an evidentiary basis and public interest to put Ms. Zoabi on trial,” Mandelblit said in a statement.
Thirty-five other suspects were also questioned on the case, including other senior Balad officials, but Mandelblit decided he would not indict the party itself despite legal grounds to do so.
“The possible harm of putting a party on trial is expected to not only harm its current leadership or founders or owners, but also a wider circle of citizens who have an attachment to the party and identify with its goals and public positions,” he stated.
During her terms as MK for the Balad party between 2009 and 2019, Zoabi, the first Arab woman to be elected to the legislature on an Arab party’s list, became notorious for her outrageous statements and actions against Israel, especially her presence on the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship that tried to violate Israel’s security blockade of the Gaza Strip. When Israeli commandos boarded the ship, they were violently attacked by protesters.
Following the incident, Zoabi was disqualified from the next general elections by the Central Elections Committee but the Supreme Court unanimously overruled the decision.
In 2011, then-Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin ordered Zoabi to be removed from the Knesset following her controversial remarks. She violently attacked the Knesset ushers carrying out Rivlin’s orders.
Zoabi compared Israel to Nazi Germany, called for its dissolution, called Israelis soldiers “murderers,” and justified the actions of the kidnappers of the three Israelis teenagers in 2014, saying: “Is it strange that people living under occupation and living impossible lives, in a situation where Israel kidnaps new prisoners every day, is it strange that they kidnap? They are not terrorists.”
During the ensuing Operation Protective Edge, Zoabi attacked policemen at an anti-war protest in Haifa. Following that incident, she was suspended from the Knesset for six months, the maximum punishment allowed.
Zoabi left political life behind in January 2019 to the delight of Jewish Knesset members.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)