The Central Elections Committee's decision to bar MK Hanin Zuabi (Balad) from running in the upcoming election is arbitrary and unacceptable. Zuabi was an active and successful MK, and even her participation in a Turkish-sponsored protest flotilla to Gaza in 2010 is not an excuse for disqualifying her.
Zuabi represents views that are widespread among the Israeli Arab community, even if they seem radical to parts of the Jewish community. These views need to be given expression in the Knesset. Democracy is judged by how it treats minority views, and Zuabi's disqualification is the removal of a legitimate worldview, attesting to a dangerous mood of ostracizing the Arab voice in Israel's public discourse.
Unfortunately, there are many people, both in the Knesset and outside it, who don't want this voice to be represented in our elected legislature. There are also more than a few people who would like to deny Israeli Arabs the right to vote. But Israel will not be able to continue boasting of being the only democracy in the Middle East - one of its greatest assets - if Zuabi's candidacy is disqualified.
Members of her Balad faction were quick to announce that if she is barred, their party won't run in the election. That would create another dangerous barrier of alienation between Israeli Arabs and the state.
The Central Elections Committee's decision will be put to the test in the Supreme Court in the coming days. Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has already spoken out against Zuabi's disqualification. It must be hoped that, just as it has on previous occasions, the court will overturn the disqualification and prevent this damage to Israel's image.
Nevertheless, this ritual of disqualification, which recurs every election, must be stopped. The Central Elections Committee is comprised mainly of politicians, which has made the panel's discussions political and populist. The disqualification of a slate or individual candidate for Knesset must be reserved for the rarest and most extreme cases. We should consider transferring the power to disqualify from the committee to the Supreme Court, where all political considerations would be left aside.
MK Zuabi has the right to express her views in the Knesset as she sees fit, even if they aren't music to the ears of many Israeli Jews. Now, the Supreme Court must ensure that this will indeed be the case.
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