Israel's Top Court Hears Petition to Disqualify Israeli Arab Labor Candidate

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Ibtisam Mara'ana in court today.
Ibtisam Mara'ana in court today.Credit: Emil Salman

The Supreme Court heard on Wednesday a petition to disqualify Ibtisam Mara’ana, number 7 on the Labor slate, for controversial comments she made on social media and in interviews against Israel and IDF soldiers.

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An extended nine-judge panel headed by Supreme Court President Esther Hayut is hearing the petition. The court is expected to present its ruling on Sunday.

Last week, the Central Election Committee voted to disqualify Mara’ana following a petition filed by Itamar Ben-Gvir's Otzma Yehudit, a right-wing party led by followers of racist Rabbi Meir Kahane.

The disqualification of Mara’ana by the Election Committee is seen as largely symbolic and is subject to the court's approval. 

The High Court of Justice in session, this morning.Credit: Emil Salman

The court usually does not uphold such disqualifications since members of the Election Committee represent the parties running in the election, creating a potential conflict of interest.

The petition says that Mara’ana called for the destruction of the State of Israel. 

Mara’ana “called for the destruction of the State of Israel by returning Jews to European countries where they faced genocide, when she said ‘I would destroy [the Israeli city] of Zichron Yaakov … so you’d return to the U.S. or to Poland,’” according to the petition. 

During the hearing, Mara’ana apologized for her past comments. 
The remarks were made in an interview with a local newspaper in 2008.

Otzma Yehudit Chairman Itamar Ben Gvir in court today.Credit: Emil Salman

Otzma Yehudit also claims that Mara’ana incited to murder Israeli soldiers in a 2013 Facebook post.

“I didn’t stand during the [Memorial Day] siren, I was driving while nearly the entire country was standing still. I decided to keep driving and those were two wonderful minutes,” the post read. She also apologized for this post.

During the hearing, Mara'ana referred to her own upbringing, arguing it was inconceivable that she could wish for the destruction of Zichron Yaakov. "My mother cleaned houses in Zichron Yaakov so that we could get an education. This is one of the most significant things that shaped me."

When Hayut asked her to clarify her stance, Mara'ana replied that her words had been taken out of context. "I apologize for that," she said. "Journalists edit and cut what they want. I am fighting for a democracy that will be good for all of us, Arabs and Jews together, and that is what I will do in the Knesset."

Responding in court, Ben-Gvir claimed that her apology was not sincere.

According to Israel’s Election Law, candidates who have denied the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, incited racial hatred or supported an armed struggle against the State of Israel can be disqualified.

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit opposed earlier this month the petition to disqualify Mara’ana. 

“Most if not all of the little evidence presented to support the petition to disqualify [Mara’ana] does not establish any one of the three grounds for disqualification and certainly does not establish the critical mass of evidence required by law to disqualify a candidate running in the election,” Mendelblit said.

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