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January 29, 2015 / 9 Shevat, 5775
 
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ZOA President’s Encounter With Arab Lawmaker

JERUSALEM – An American Jewish leader was restricted by security guards from entering the Knesset last week after he questioned an Arab lawmaker over seemingly anti-Israel statements and practices.

The episode unfolded when Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, was in the Knesset waiting room with a group of other U.S. Jewish leaders who had come to parliament for pre-scheduled meetings with the country’s top leadership, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The group was about to enter when Klein noticed Israeli Arab Knesset Member Ahmed Tibi walking into the building.

According to Klein and several witnesses who spoke to The Jewish Press, the ZOA president approached Tibi and questioned him about a conference the lawmaker attended in Doha last year in which he reportedly registered as a representative of the state of “Palestine” rather than Israel.

Klein also questioned Tibi about scores of anti-Israel statements the lawmaker has made, such as recent public charges from Tibi of Israeli apartheid against the Palestinians.

“I asked Tibi if he thinks it appropriate for a Knesset member to be blackening Israel’s image by calling it an apartheid state and to be going around as a paid Knesset member and yet representing himself as from the so-called state of Palestine, which doesn’t exist,” Klein said.

Both Klein and multiple witnesses related how after the questions were asked, Tibi started screaming “at the top of his lungs” for security to expel Klein, accusing the Jewish leader of physically and then verbally assaulting him.

When the guards entered, Tibi retracted his claim of physical assault but maintained that Klein had verbally assaulted him – a charge denied by others in the room at the time.

In line with instructions from the Knesset speaker, Likud member Reuven Rivlin, security guards were instructed not to allow entry to Klein until he formally apologized to Tibi, an action Klein refused to take.

“Why should I apologize for asking Tibi a legitimate question?” asked Klein. “And why should Rivlin side with Tibi? Rivlin has been a friend of mine for years and agrees with my views. Plus, I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Klein contacted Knesset members Aryeh Eldad of the National Union party and Danny Danon of Likud, both of whom invited Klein into the building as their personal guests, but was still denied entry.

After waiting in the lobby for two and a half hours, Klein was finally allowed in when Tibi accepted a personal statement from the ZOA president declaring that he had not meant to offend Tibi with his questions.

The drama did not end there, however.

About thirty minutes after the truce, Klein and other Jewish leaders ran into Tibi again in a large open section of the Knesset. They said that they overheard Tibi speaking on his cell phone in English about how Klein was only allowed into the building after he had officially apologized to Tibi.

At that point, Klein’s deputy, Steve Goldberg, approached Tibi to point out to the lawmaker that he was inaccurately describing the fiasco.

According to witnesses, Goldberg told Tibi, “That’s a total lie. Stop telling people that lie. Klein never apologized.”

Tibi then started yelling at Goldberg, prompting several security guards to rush into the room. Tibi claimed that both Klein and Goldberg had verbally assaulted him and demanded the pair be barred from the Knesset immediately.

Klein and others in the room, however, pointed out that Goldberg acted alone and that Tibi was not verbally assaulted. Tibi relented at that point and instructed the guards to boot Goldberg, who was promptly escorted from the building and not allowed back in that day.

Tibi told The Jewish Press this week that when Klein first approached him in the Knesset lobby, the ZOA president told him he should not be allowed in the Knesset building because of his alleged anti-Israel views.

That claim was denied by Klein and several witnesses to the confrontation.

Tibi also accused Klein of being a “rightist” who is “anti-Arab.”

“He has a problem with me because my first name is Ahmed,” Tibi said.

Klein retorted, “No, I have a problem with him because he is anti-Israel and also a Knesset member.”

About the Author: Aaron Klein is a New York Times bestselling author and senior reporter for WND.com. He is also host of an investigative radio program on New York's 970 AM Radio on Sundays from 7 to 9 p.m. Eastern. His website is KleinOnline.com.


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