Israel's Top Court Overrules Disqualification of Arab Labor Candidate in March Election

Election panel previously granted far-right party's demand to disqualify Ibtisam Mara’ana, claiming past comments called for Israel’s destruction

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
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Ibtisam Mara’ana at the Supreme Court, last week.
Ibtisam Mara’ana at the Supreme Court, last week.Credit: Emil Salman
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

Ibtisam Mara’ana will be allowed to be a candidate in the upcoming election, the Supreme Court ruled on Sunday, overruling the Central Elections Committee decision to disqualify her at the request of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party.

Eight of the nine justices on the panel ruled that Mara’ana should be allowed to run, while the ninth, Justice David Mintz, said he thought there was sufficient evidence to disqualify her.

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The Labor Party said after the court decision that “[t]he Supreme Court has spoken” and that Mara’ana “expressed regret for things she wrote over a decade ago.” 

Mara’ana said on Twitter that she was “very happy” with the decision and "let’s get to work for democracy, for women, for Jewish-Arab partnership, for human rights.”

The elections committee disqualified Mara’ana, a Labor Party candidate, over the claim that one of her past comments, for which she apologized during the court hearing last week, called for Israel’s destruction.

Otzma Yehudit pointed to a quote in a 2008 interview with Mara’ana, writing in its petition that 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.’” The petition omitted parts of the quote, which began, “If I were to come up with an apocalyptic scenario...”

Mintz’s dissenting opinion on Sunday said that “[t]he State of Israel’s duty, as a Jewish and democratic state, to defend itself against those seeking to destroy and remove the Jews living in it; it’s difficult, in my view, to accept a situation in which an entry ticket to parliament to one who hopes for the deportation of the Jews ‘to the U.S. or Poland.’”

In its request to disqualify her from running in the election, Otzma Yehudit also argued 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 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 Supreme Court President Esther 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, Otzma Yehudit Chairman Ben-Gvir said her apology was not sincere.

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