Basel Ghattas, Palestinian member of the Knesset, submitted his resignation and will be serving a two-year sentence in Israeli prison, in a plea bargain in which he stated that he did in fact bring cellular phones to Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails. He affirmed that the transfer of cellular phones was done for “humanitarian and moral reasons,” due to the conditions and isolation in which Palestinian prisoners are held.
“I hope that we as a people, community, civil groups and parties, shall give due attention to the suffering of Palestinian prisoners in the occupation’s prisons and put it on the agenda of the Arab and international public opinion,” he said in the New Arab. He noted that he agreed to the plea bargain in order to focus on the issue of Palestinian prisoners and take action on the racist incitement campaign being directed at Palestinian citizens of Israel, who live under an apartheid system where over 50 laws discriminate against them. He stated that he resigned without regrets, and that his involvement in the Knesset was not a career but just one aspect of political work.
Ghattas’ seat in the Knesset, where he represented the Joint List, will be filled by Juma Zabarqa. Zabarqa has come under attack from Zionist parties for allegedly building his home without “proper permits.” Permits for home construction are routinely denied to Palestinians, including Palestinian citizens of Israel, by the Israeli state; entire villages, especially in the Naqab, have been subject to demolition and lack of recognition by the Israeli state. “We have lived in our homes and villages for decades. We have inherited our land from our fathers and grandfathers, and we do not need a license to inhabit it,” said Zabarqa, noting that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship live in homes considered to be “unpermitted.”