Israel's Election Panel Bars Arab Lawmaker From Running for Knesset

The Central Election Committee decided to bar Heba Yazbak over a social media post in which she expressed support for a terrorist ■ High Court to issue final ruling

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Balad-United Arab List MK-elect Heba Yazbak at her party headquarters in Nazareth, March 2019.
Balad-United Arab List MK-elect Heba Yazbak at her party headquarters in Nazareth, March 2019.Credit: Gil Eliahu

Israel's Central Elections Committee decided on Wednesday to bar Arab Israeli Knesset member (MK) Heba Yazbak (of the Balad faction in the Joint List party) from running for the Israeli parliament over the claim that she had expressed support for terrorists.

The final ruling on the matter will be made by the Supreme Court.

The committee held a tense discussion over the request to bar the lawmaker from running in the March 2 election.

The committee also disqualified the Mishpatei Tzedek party, or "fair trials" in Hebrew. The party is headed by Larisa Trembovler-Amir, the wife of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassin, Yigal Amir.

>> Read more: Why this female Arab lawmaker scares Israelis so much

The decision to disqualify Yazbak was made with a majority of 27 party representatives voting in favor, and only nine voting against the move; center-left alliance Democratic Union and Yazbak's own Joint List voted against. 

Yazbak told the committee that she expressed support for integrating former Palestinian prisoners into society and did not support terrorism.

Speaking before the committee, Yazbak said that "they have turned a woman who fought her entire life for peace and justice and against violence into a terror supporter. Even if the political narrative of the Joint List has been silenced and has become illegitimate, it has not and will not be erased. The radical right-wing found two posts of mine to build an image of a monster who doesn't care about the murder of innocent children. I explained why today I would have used different words. The radical right-wing is trying to hide the real injustice of the occupation and the blockade [on the Gaza Strip]."

Support for a terrorist 

The representative of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit said that Yazak's claims were not convincing, but that she had apologized for sharing a Facebook post in which she called Samir Kuntar, a terrorist who was jailed in Israel for a notorious attack, a "martyr."

Kuntar spent nearly three decades in an Israeli prison for carrying out the attack, which included the brutal murders of a young man and his 4-year-old daughter. He was released in a prisoner swap in 2008 and killed in an explosion near Damascus in 2015. Yazbak also congratulated a Hezbollah spy after his release from prison.

In yet another controversial incident, Yazbak was asked by Channel 13 whether she viewed harming soldiers as a legitimate action, and replied: “International law itself allows peoples that are under occupation to act for their liberation” and added: “What is illegitimate is the continuation of the occupation.”  She later denied calling for violence against Israeli soldiers.

In the light of her later comments on her own remarks, General Avichai Mendelblit's office filed a brief Monday stating that "in light of her statements and clarifications," there is no evidence justifying her disqualification from running in the election.

Among those who filed the request to bar Yazbak was Itamar Ben-Gvir, a radical right-wing activist, attorney, Kahane supporter and a member of the Otzma Yehudit party. He opened the discussion on her case and presented her, claiming that evidence shows she supports terrorism and had expressed her backing for a number of terrorists.

Haaretz published an opinion piece by Yazbak on Sunday in which she hit back at claims that previous remarks made by her were supportive of terrorism, stating that she had been criticizing the policy of targeted killings and not endorsing attacks. “I’m against harming human beings, period, and the attempt by extremists to claim that I’m in favor of hurting children or blowing up buses is absurd and disgusting,” she wrote.

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