‘I pledge to fight the occupation, apartheid’ say Arab Israeli lawmakers at Knesset swearing-in ceremony

Instead of pledging to serve Israel, Abu Shehadeh said, “I pledge to fight the occupation” and “I pledge to fight apartheid.”

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

A group of Arab Israeli lawmakers used the swearing-in ceremony for members of Israel’s 24th Knesset as an opportunity to call Israel an apartheid state.

When it came time for Samy Abu Shehadeh of the Joint List to recite the standard “I pledge” promise, in which lawmakers swear to uphold their duties as an elected official of the state of Israel, the avowed anti-Zionist lawmaker put his own twist on the text.

Instead of pledging to serve Israel, Abu Shehadeh said, “I pledge to fight the occupation” and “I pledge to fight apartheid.” Several other members of the Joint List followed suit.

The remarks were met with jeers by some Knesset members from other parties.

Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, who is responsible for overseeing the swearing-in, said that the pledges were invalid. The Joint List MKs who chose not to recite the standard pledge would need to so at a later date, Levin explained, or risk facing losing some of their parliamentary privileges.

But Abu Shehadeh’s statement wasn’t the only controversy at the swearing-in ceremony.

As Itamar Ben-Gvir of the Religious Zionism party recited the pledge, Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg shouted, “Shame!”

Mansour Abbas, head of the Ra’am party which could potentially make or break a right-wing or left-wing coalition, was not present at the ceremony.

He is reportedly hospitalized and will soon undergo surgery for kidney stones.

MK Shlomo Karhi of Likud boycotted the swearing-in, over Rivlin’s refusal to meet with Netanyahu in person to give him the mandate to form the government.

The tumultuous ceremony had opened with an emotional speech from President Reuven Rivlin.

He beseeched lawmakers to find a way to unite and work together, despite their differences.

“If we are not able to find a new model of partnership that allows us to live together here in mutual respect and genuine shared commitment to each other, our national resilience will be in real jeopardy,” he said.