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An ultranationalist Israeli parliament member faced possible suspension from the Knesset on Monday for hurling a cup of water at an Arab colleague when he told her to "shut up" during exchanges over school students attending human rights rally.
Ghaleb Majadleh, an Israeli Arab member of the Labour party, had protested at an education panel meeting to reprimand an Arab school principal for letting pupils attend a human rights group rally. "You are inciting against the state," retorted Anastasia Michaeli, a member of the rightwing Yisrael Beitenu (Israel Our Home) party.
When Majadleh told her to "shut up" Michaeli rose from her seat, poured water into a plastic cup and threw it at Majadleh, hitting his face and jacket, before heading for the door.
The outburst was not unusual for Israel's raucous parliament but many see the violent nature of the argument as a sign of rising political tensions, spurred on by speculation that national elections may be held earlier than 2013.
Michaeli later told reporters Majadleh had been rude. "If there are no men in the Israeli Knesset willing to defend women, then I will defend myself, the honour of my party and of the Knesset," she said.
Majadleh, a former cabinet minister and the only Israeli Arab citizen ever to hold such a position, accused Michaeli of provocation and denied insulting her.
But making even more news than the change in selection procedure were statements made after the decision by committee member Anastasia Michaeli, a host on Israel’s main Russian-language channel. Apparently in reference to Liel, a Jewish pop singer who had been considered for this year’s Eurovision spot, Michaeli told the YNet Web site that the country shouldn’t be represented by a singer who “looks Arab,” later adding that “I’m for equality and personally am not racist.”