A delegation of Israeli lawmakers on Wednesday stormed out of an international gathering of parliamentarians after facing a tongue lashing, heckling and resolutions critical of Jerusalem at the annual meeting.
Likud MK Sharren Haskel, Yesh Atid MK Haim Jelin, Zionist Union MKs Yossi Yonah and Nachman Shai, and Knesset Secretary Yardena Meller-Horowitz complained about mistreatment at the Inter-Parliament Union assembly in Saint Petersburg, Russia, including being heckled while trying to speak at the event.
While the lawmakers said they left to protest the body passing a series of resolutions that included calls for Israel to release two Palestinians convicted of participating in deadly terror attacks, the walkout occurred shortly after they were yelled at by a fellow lawmaker.
A video circulated on social media showed the speaker of the Kuwaiti National Assembly, Marzouq Al-Ghanim, shouting at the Israeli MKs that they were “child killers” and to “get out of the hall” after one of them addressed the summit. The delegation was then seen leaving the room.
“I want to respond to what the representative of this brutal occupying parliament said, a representative of the most dangerous form of terrorism, that is state terror,” Ghanim said. “There is parable that everyone in the world knows — if you do not feel shame then do as you please. So I say to you get out of here, occupier. If you have an atom of dignity get out of here, you occupier, child killers.”
The video then appears to show the Israeli delegation exiting the hall. It was not clear if they left immediately after Ghanim’s outburst or some time later.
Zionist Union MK Ksenia Svetlova said Thursday she was proud of the MKs for “defending the country’s honor” by leaving the hall.
“I would expect the organizers of the event to calm things down and not stand at the side in light of the verbal abuse and it is regrettable that they didn’t do so,” she said. “Sometimes it is not easy to represent Israel abroad, but despite this we must do it on every available platform. Our presence in the international arena and international organizations is extremely important.”
The Israeli MKs said they walked out not because of Ghanim, but rather because the gathering approved a range of anti-Israel resolutions including a call for the release of convicted terrorists Marwan Barghouti and Ahmed Saadat.
Other motions passed also rebuked Israel for holding Hamas members of the Palestinian National Council in administrative detention.
Before they exited, Shai addressed the summit and criticized it for asking Israel to release Barghouti and Saadat.
“I innocently thought that the organization, like the entire world, is united in the struggle against terror, since terror endangers every country in every place at every moment in the world. You want to release convicted murderers from prison? I though you want to fight terror and not help it, but the reality is different.”
Shai told the gathering that Israel is committed to peace with its neighbors, including the Palestinians, “but it will not come at the expense of the uncompromising struggle against the spread of terror.”
Representatives of several countries condemned Israel, including Syria, Pakistan, Jordan and Kuwait. A Palestinian Authority representative also condemned Israel.
Haskel told the parliamentarians that some of those present had no right to be telling Israel how to behave democratically, given their own track records.
“I think that it is a bad joke,” she said, struggling to speak over the din of noise as critics thumped on their desks. “Countries like Pakistan, Syria and Iran are behaving hypocritically, they are telling us (Israel) what is to preserve human rights. I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. This organization is supposed to preserve democracy, to create cooperation between countries and strengthen it, but behold, the Palestinian Authority hasn’t had elections for more than ten years and anyone under the age of 29 has never voted. What elected representatives are these?”
Haskel also told the forum, amid a barrage of heckling, that Israel is the only country in the region that guarantees equality for citizens of all religions.
After the meeting, the Israeli delegation sent a letter of complaint to the outgoing president of the organization, Saber Chowdhury from Bangladesh, saying that he deeply damaged the neutral position of the organization by allowing the Arab states to constantly interrupt the Israeli speakers and by not giving equal time to the members of the Knesset delegation.
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it was not involved in arrangements for the event and that it is the Knesset that decides which MKs to send.
Earlier this month an Israeli lawmaker was accosted by a Moroccan officialand branded a “war criminal” during a meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean and the World Trade Organization in Morocco’s capital of Rabat.
At the end of the session, Zionist Union MK Amir Peretz was approached by the head of an Islamist workers party in Morocco’s parliament, who began to yell at the former defense minister.
“You are a war criminal,” Abed al-Halak yelled at Peretz. “You were the Israeli defense minister and you are an unwanted guest here.”
Former Israeli Druze lawmaker Majalli Wahabi quickly came to Peretz’s defense, noting the Zionist Union MK was born in Morocco.
The chairman of the meeting later apologized to Peretz, saying, “This minority does not represent the parliament or the Moroccan people,” according to a spokesperson for Peretz.