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Israel's parliament strips Arab lawmaker of privileges

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Arab lawmaker Hanin Zoabi loses three privileges
  • Israel's parliament votes 34-16 in Zoabi matter
  • Zoabi is part of Israel's large Arab minority
  • She was on board one of boats in Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May

(CNN) -- Israel's parliament has punished an Arab lawmaker for participating in the Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May.

The Knesset, Israel's parliament, voted 34-16 on Tuesday night to strip Hanin Zoabi of three privileges.

They are revoking her diplomatic passport, rescinding her privilege to leave the country if she commits a felony and taking away the right to have the Knesset cover any legal fees if she faces a trial.

"I consider the decision a nondemocratic decision, a racist decision, a decision that makes other members of the Knesset think that they can pass laws and sentences to other members of the Knesset because they differ from their political views," she told CNN. She is a member of the Balad party.

Danny Danon, a member of the Likud party, said the decision was a symbolic message to Arab Knesset members who supported acts like Zoabi's.

"The decision was a symbolic message that this Knesset send to the Arab MKs who choose not to support terrorism vocally but actually to take cynical parts in a terrorist attack," he said.

Arabs in Israel constitute about 20 percent of Israel 's 7 million citizens, and the relationship between Jews and Arabs in Israel is complicated.

There has been de facto discrimination against people in the community, and some Jews have said Israeli Arabs represent a security threat.

But the Arab minority has been integrated into Israel's political and social life for decades.

This is not the first time an Israeli Arab lawmaker has been punished. Azmi Bishara was stripped of parliamentary privileges after being accused of spying for Hezbollah following the Israeli-Lebanese war in 2006.

Zoabi was on board the Mavi Marmara, one of the boats that attempted to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. Eight Turks and one dual Turkish-U.S. citizen were killed when Israeli troops raided the flotilla on May 31.

CNN's Kareen Khadder contributed to this report.