The Central Elections Committee on Thursday disqualified a Jewish far-right extremist and an outspoken Arab lawmaker from running in the March election. The decisions now go to the High Court of Justice.
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MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) was barred from running on the Arab parties’ Joint List by a vote of 27-6. In addition to Yisrael Beiteinu and Likud, which submitted the request, Zionist Union, Yesh Atid and the religious parties voted for disqualification. Only Meretz and the Joint List voted no.
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein had advised against disqualification, saying that while Zoabi has made extreme and “worrying” remarks, there was insufficient proof that she supported armed struggle against Israel, which would merit disqualification under Israeli law.
The hearing was stormy. The two-term Knesset member’s speech in her own defense was repeatedly interrupted by catcalls from fellow MKs and audience members.
“You should be in jail!” one said.
“Our soldiers’ blood is on your hands, and you stand there and laugh?” asked another.
Likud MK Yariv Levin, who presented his party’s case for her disqualification, argued that audio and video clips provided ample proof of Zoabi’s “support for terror and rejection of Israel’s identity as Jewish and democratic: her statement that the kidnappers [of three Israeli teens last summer] weren’t terrorists, an article on the Hamas website urging a blockade on Israel, her participation in anti-Israel demonstrations, her trip to Qatar to meet Azmi Bishara, her statement that Israeli soldiers are terrorists.”
Bishara, the former head of Zoabi’s party, fled Israel in 2007 to avoid a police investigation into allegations that he aided Hezbollah during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
Zoabi slammed her accusers.
“Who wants to disqualify me? The politicians who never expressed reservations about the killing of Palestinians. Those who want to disqualify me are the ones who should be standing before us to give an accounting of what has been done to my and other peoples,” Zoabi said.
“[Yisrael Beiteinu chairman and Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman and Levin use partial quotes to say that I support armed struggle, but they’ve never been able to use any quotes from me to show that I support armed struggle,” Zoabi continued. “I’ve been quoted as supporting popular struggle, which I do. Popular struggle and international pressure are legitimate methods.
“I link violence to the occupation. The occupation is the source of the cycle of bloodshed,” she added.
After the vote she called the panel “a political committee where the right and the racists have a majority,” adding, “There’s no substantive legal basis for disqualifying me.”
Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran, who heads the elections committee, also condemned the decision. He said the court would likely overturned the decision, as it did before the last election. “This respects neither the committee nor the Supreme Court,” Joubran said.
The decision to disqualify Baruch Marzel, of Eli Yishai’s new Yahad party, was narrowly approved by a vote of 17 to 16 a few hours later. Yesh Atid, Meretz, Zionist Union and the Joint List all voted for disqualification. Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu and the religious parties voted against.
The request to ban Marzel was submitted by the Coalition Against Racism, an alliance of human rights groups. It argued that for years he was a key activist in Kach, which was barred from elections as a racist party in the 1980s and subsequently outlawed. Marzel has never publicly renounced Kach’s beliefs. The petitioners also claimed Marzel rejects Israel’s democratic identity and accused him of incitement to racism.
On Wednesday, Weinstein told the committee there was insufficient evidence to prove the claims because it was based solely on news reports and for that reason he opposed disqualifying Marzel.
Yishai argued on Thursday that Marzel had nothing against Arabs, only against enemies of Israel.
Writing on Facebook before the vote, Marzel said that despite “the Arab MKs, friends of the enemy and their left-wing collaborators,” he would be in the next Knesset. “And I promise you something else: I will make them understand that their fear was justified, because my name isn’t Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu] and my name isn’t [Naftali] Bennett; my name is Baruch Marzel, and I’ve truly come to fight.”
Yishai, who split from Shas to form Yahad, is running on a joint ticket with Otzma Yehudit. Marzel is the latter party’s representative on the slate.