During the Knesset swearing-in ceremony, which was held in the presence of Supreme Court President Esther Hayut, each of the newly elected members of the 24th Knesset were supposed to stand and pledge, “I bear allegiance to the State of Israel and faithfully discharge my mandate in the Knesset.” But the oath taken by Joint Arab List MKs Ayman Odeh, Samy Abu Shahadeh, Ofer Cassif, and Aida Tuma-Slima went radically different. They declared: “I bear allegiance to fighting the occupation and apartheid.”
In response, Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin (Likud) said the altered oath was invalid and the anti-Zionist MKs would have to recite the correct version in the near future. The MKs were removed from the plenum for the disruption they caused.
The ceremony concluded with the singing of the national anthem Hatikvah, but we don’t know which national anthem was sung by the four MKs (they had reportedly already left the plenum).
It brought to mind a similar swearing-in ceremony, on June 8, 1987, when newly elected MK Meir Kahane (Kach) stood and vowed: “I will always obey your Torah, for ever and ever (Psalms 119:44).”
In response, then-Speaker Shlomo Hillel stated:
“Thanks. I declare that the statement is null and void, and I regard it as a false statement. Therefore, I determine, according to the provisions of section 16 of the Basic Law: The Knesset, that as long as MK Kahane does not issue his pledge of allegiance, he will not enjoy the rights of a Knesset member, including the right to participate in the deliberations of the Knesset and its committees, and the right to be in the plenary hall. MK Kahana will, of course, be able to enter the plenary hall for the purpose of issuing a pledge of allegiance as required.”
“I declare that from now on, as long as MK Kahane does not pledge as required by law, he should be seen as a Knesset member who did not pledge allegiance, or rather as a Member of the Knesset who refused to give a pledge of allegiance as required, as we have just seen a moment ago, to remain as such as long as the situation does not change. I intend to order the ushers that MK Kahana will not be able to enter the plenary hall. He will, of course, be able to enter the Knesset building.”
However, while the late Rabbi Kahane’s dedication to Torah law was admirable, his choice of an alternative text had also to do with his attempt to retain his US citizenship, which the State Dept. was likely to revoke based on his swearing allegiance to a foreign power. Following this, the US could also ban Rabbi Kahane’s entry into the US, where he based his fundraising efforts.
Eventually, after his appeal to the Supreme Court had been rejected, MK Kahane was forced to read the proper oath, which did not improve his treatment by fellow MKs, who routinely left the plenum when he spoke – with the noted exception of Rabbis Yaakov Yosef (Shas) and Haim Drukman (NRP).
Despite his being treated like a pariah, a poll that was published in Ma’ariv on August 28, 1985, about one year into his term, Kahane won 11 seats.
Around the same time, the Knesset passed Section 7A of the Basic Law: The Knesset, which stipulates that a slate of candidates will not participate in the Knesset elections and will not be a candidate in the Knesset elections if there its goals or actions include incitement to racism.
In light of the amendment, Kahane and his list were barred from participating in the 1988 Knesset elections, after they were rejected by the Election Commission on October 5, 1988. Kahane appealed to the Supreme Court which upheld the decision.
MK Itamar Ben-Gvir demanded from Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin that he follow the court decision that was used against Rav Kahane, and not allow the Arab MKs who did not pledge allegiance to not be allowed back into the plenum nor receive other rights.
So, in light of this precedence, shouldn’t Speaker Levin start proceedings to expel the Joint Arab List from the Knesset? Yes, we’re only kidding. Expelling anti-Zionist Arabs would be racist.