Photo Credit: Noam Revkin Fenton; Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Otzma Yehudit party member Michael Ben Ari (R) and MK Merav Ben Ari.

Following the police’s third summons of former MK Michael Ben-Ari for interrogation over his tweets, the co-leader of their Otzma Yehudit party, MK Itamar Ben Gvir, on Tuesday held a debate in the Knesset’s Internal Security Committee on the subject of “Police practices of investigating tweets.” Ben-Ari was asked to return to the Knesset in an attempt to defend his good name.

So far, nothing out of the ordinary. In Israel, a country that has no finalized Constitution nor a complementary Bill of Rights, freedom of speech is not a supreme value and police frequently question individuals whose public statements appear “questionable.” Ben-Ari’s public statements have been enough for the Supreme Court to ban him from running for the Knesset while endorsing vehement anti-Israeli candidates such as Hanin Zoabi.

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Except that this time, Ben-Ari’s painful testimony about being harassed by the powers that be in Israel over his unabashed patriotism (and quirky sense of humor), Internal Security Committee Chairwoman MK Merav Ben-Ari (Yesh Atid) was touched deeply, and tweeted:

“I’ll probably catch hell here, but I’ll take a risk. I did not know former MK Michael Ben-Ari. I read some articles about him, especially during the election season when he was disqualified from serving in the Knesset. But today I heard his testimony in my committee and it just shook me. I hope the lessons from his experiences will be internalized and learned, no one needs to be treated this way, no matter which side you are on the political map.”

Here’s a haunting sample of Ben-Ari’s anguished testimony on Tuesday:

“I’m not prepared for my good name to be tarnished. It’s part of Holocaust denial, it’s modern Holocaust denial – Ben-Ari is the racist, and Merkel and the Germans are the moral compass.”

Ben-Ari recalled his arrival in Lod a few years ago, with the aim of warning “about the Arab occupier who is raging there every day.”

Ben-Ari added: “I have never harmed Arabs. I respect them, which is why I say they are not loyal to the state. Anyone who says they are loyal to the state is a racist because the Arab nation is loyal to their nationality. This is a political debate that’s being dragged into the judicial arena, I am being blamed over my political opinion.”

Both Merav Ben-Ari and Michael Ben-Ari (not related) have a non-Ashkenazi heritage. Merav’s father came to Israel from Iran and her mother from Libya; Michael’s father came from Afghanistan and his mother from Iran.

But while Michael Ben-Ari, the father of nine children is happily married to his wife Dganit and they live in Karnei Shomron, Merav Ben-Ari is a single mother and lives in Tel Aviv.

They’re both free thinkers, but for the time being, only Michael is being targeted by the police for political harassment.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.
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