High Court Rules: Israeli Arab MK Hanin Zuabi Can Run in Upcoming Election

In unanimous ruling, the court overturns decision to disqualify the Balad MK over her involvement in Gaza flotilla; Likud MK Yariv Levine: High Court justices will only understand Zuabi does not belong in the Knesset once she blows herself up there.

Ofra Edelman
Ofra Edelman
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Ofra Edelman
Ofra Edelman

Israel's High Court ruled on Sunday that Balad MK Hanin Zuabi will be able to run in the upcoming Israeli elections, rejecting a decision by Israel's Central Elections Committee to disqualify the Israeli Arab MK over her involvement in the Gaza flotilla in May 2010.

Likud MK Yariv Levine condemned the court's decision on Sunday. "Unless MK Zuabi blows herself up in the Knesset, the High Court justices won't understand that she has no place there."

Israel's Central Elections Committee voted earlier this month to disqualify Zuabi based chiefly on her involvement in the Gaza flotilla in May 2010.

Zuabi said in response to the vote that "the decision is a result of political vindictiveness and a pathetic attempt to harm the representation of the Arab public." She added that she is convinced that "the struggle for full equality is the only way to achieve democracy."

Hanin's lawyer, and General Director of Adalah - the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Hassan Jabareen, said that the High Court's rejection of all the disqualification attempts over the past 15 years "show that disqualification is meant to foster de-legitimization of Arab elected officials."

Representatives from the joint list for the Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu stated that the parties are "upset over the High Court's decision," and pointed out that "in light of the ordeal in the High Court, it is clear that the existing law needs to change, and sharply declare that any expression of support for terror should be a disqualifier for running for election in the Israeli Knesset. Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu will immediately act during the next Knesset to fix the existing laws."

MK Ofir Akunis, a party member, and the one responsible for the move to block Zuabi from running, said that he respects the High Court's decision, but will "act in every parliamentary way possible in order to fortify Israeli democracy."

According to Zuabi, "the elections committee blatantly ignored the attorney general's unequivocal opinion that there is no legal basis for the disqualification. It is now clear that the elections committee is a political body meant to harm the representatives of the Arab public, and has nothing to do with democracy," she said. "Instead of holding a public debate, they wish to silence me, and with me a whole demographic. We will not cooperate with such silencing."

Balad chairman Jamal Zahalka responded to the committee's decision, saying "the decision to disqualify MK Hanin Zuabi is neither lawful nor democratic, but is part of the extreme right's election campaign. This is a harsh blow to the entire Arab public, aimed to weaken their political clout in the Knesset, thereby strengthening the right. We unequivocally support MK Zuabi and all her activities, and repeat and emphasize that if the High Court of Justice does not overturn this decision, the Balad list will not appear in the upcoming election for the Knesset.

Moreover, we call for revocation of the committee's authority to disqualify politicians, inasmuch as it has long since become an undemocratic political tool." Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein earlier this week expressed his opposition to all petitions submitted on the subject, claiming an insufficient basis for proving the accusations raised.

In response to the High Court decision, Hadash MK Dov Khenin said "it is troubling that the government condones harming democracy in order to gain a few more votes on the right."

Prior to the previous election in 2009, the committee also voted to ban Balad and the United Arab List-Ta'al. In the election for the 16th Knesset in 2003, the committee disqualified MKs Ahmed Tibi and Azmi Bishara.

Israeli Arab lawmaker Haneen Zoabi speaks at a news conference in Jerusalem, December 19, 2012. Credit: Reuters

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