Israeli Arab Lawmaker Loses Immunity

Israel’s Knesset has voted to lift the parliamentary immunity of an Israeli Arab legislator.The vote is likely to exacerbate already strained relations between the country’s Jewish and Arab communities.

Wednesday’s vote — after a Knesset committee recommended the step on Monday — came after the attorney general, Elyakim Rubinstein, filed two separate indictments against Azmi Beshara. The first was over a call Beshara issued during a speech in Syria earlier this year for the Arab world to unite against the “warmongering” government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The speech was made in front of sworn enemies of the Jewish state such as Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

The second indictment was for visits Beshara arranged of Israeli Arabs to Syria without the approval of Israeli authorities.

After Wednesday’s vote, Beshara said he had fallen victim to “extremist nationalist movements” in the Knesset.

Beshara denied the incitement charge, saying he had never legitimized the use of force.

He defended the family visits to Syria, saying they were a humanitarian move aimed at allowing elderly Israeli Arabs to meet with family members in Syria before they die.

Israeli citizens are forbidden to travel to Syria, which is technically in a state of war with Israel.

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