Analysis

Top Court's Brave Ban on Kahanist Leader Saved the Arab Vote

By barring Michael Ben Ari from running in the election, the Supreme Court courageously prevented insane talk from becoming insane acts

Michael Ben Ari delivers a statement to the media together with fellow Otzma Yehudit members Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir, Jerusalem, March 17, 2019.
\ RONEN ZVULUN/ REUTERS

Two days after the terrible massacre in New Zealand, the Israeli Supreme Court decided to invalidate the candidacy of Michael Ben Ari, a contender on the Union of Right-wing Parties ticket and a member of Otzma Yehudit, a party totally devoted to inciting against Israeli Arabs and the left.

What’s the connection, you may ask? Well, the Supreme Court decided Sunday that to prevent a slide from insane talk to insane acts, it first had to deny the legitimacy of the hateful words in a clear and unequivocal way.

Haaretz Weekly, Episode 19Haaretz

What’s more, the court took this courageous step despite the views of the prime minister, and was not deterred from confronting the dangerous tendencies of the pyramid's head. Indeed, it wasn’t easy and it certainly isn’t popular in many circles, unfortunately including the Israeli public. But who said the struggle against fascist and racist trends was going to be a walk in the park?

The court’s decision was primarily against the architect who worked to facilitate this racist evil, for which he even canceled a state visit to Russia. This decision is even more important given the moral conformism of the Israeli political system, by which I mean those who call themselves center-left, whom Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu isn’t sparing despite their sickening moderation; they are already feeling the forceful arm of the man, to whom many serious allegations are being leveled regarding the Benny Gantz hacking affair.

>> By barring Kahanist, Israel's Supreme Court did its job: Protecting democracy | Analysis

The story on Haaretz’s website about the Supreme Court decision featured photos of two candidates that the court had been asked to disqualify, from two different political camps – Ben Ari and Ofer Cassif. The two pictures portrayed totally opposite worlds. The former's lexicon contains every anti-Arab racist remark in the book, the type used in Europe’s darkest days against Jews themselves. The latter, meanwhile, wondered, like any reasonable person, why Mr. Jerry Seinfeld, a wealthy American Jew, had more rights in Israel than a Palestinian native to this land.

If Seinfeld had been a victim of racist persecution, then it would be Israel’s duty – in fact, the duty of any self-respecting nation – to take him in. Meanwhile, Israel is already a place of refuge for dubious characters – not Seinfeld, God forbid – whose money is leading the country toward extremism and blind nationalism.

So now, at a critical and significant point in time, the Supreme Court, minus one, did its job. Why minus one? Because the ninth justice is a settler, who under international law, under the law of all of humanity, is a scofflaw. If the other eight justices had followed the settler jurist, then Ofer Cassif would also have been disqualified, as would have Balad-United Arab List. In such a circumstance, many Arabs would have refused to vote in protest, and the right would have laughed all the way to the Prime Minister’s Residence. There is still a reasonable chance it will form the next government, but this decision means it will have to sweat a bit more.

In the face of this gloomy election campaign and the conspiratorial winds that surrounded the U.S. elections and are already blowing hard here, perhaps this courageous ruling will spur others to take brave steps.