Right-wing Israeli MPs shout down Palestinian Knesset member for speaking Arabic
Members of the Israeli Knesset from the right-wing Likud party of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have shouted down another Knesset member of Palestinian origin after he tried to give a speech in Arabic.
Walid Taha, a member of the United Arab List, which is part of Israel’s current governing coalition, spoke in Arabic while discussing the "Electricity Law" - proposed legislation to bring electricity, water, and telephone services to tens of thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel who live in villages not recognised by the Israeli government.
The Knesset session was chaired by Mansour Abbas, the leader of the United Arab List who courted controversy last year by agreeing to join the Israeli government.
After Taha gave his speech in Arabic and exchanged Arabic words with Abbas, David Amsalem, a Likud parliamentarian shouted: "You are in the Knesset! You need to speak Hebrew!"
Palestinian citizens of Israel make up over 20 percent of the Israeli population. Arabic was an official language of Israel until 2018 and now has the status of an "auxiliary language".
The right of members of the Knesset to address the body in Arabic is guaranteed by law.
Taha was later attacked on social media by other Likud members of the Knesset.
Miri Regev tweeted that it was "disgraceful" and "shameful" that Taha had delivered a speech in Arabic and that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had looked on in the Knesset while he did so.
Miki Zohar tweeted: "I heard Walid Taha explain the Electricity Law in Arabic on the podium and I felt as if I had been elected to the Palestinian parliament."
The electricity law passed by 61 votes to zero after Likud members of the Knesset refused to take part in the vote.
Likud parliamentarians turned their fire on Bennett after attacking Taha, shouting "Shame on You!" and "Leave!" according to Haaretz.
Bennett later called them "thugs" on Twitter and said that they would not be allowed to "burn the country".
חבורת בריונים,— Naftali Bennett בנט (@naftalibennett) January 5, 2022
אני לא מפחד מכם, ולא אתן לכם לשרוף את המדינה. pic.twitter.com/ys0A1qxytu