Israeli Arab MK Calls on Attorney General to Confiscate Likud Cameras Placed in Arab Polling Stations

Aida Touma-Sliman urges Avichai Mendelblit to follow directive issued by the chair of Israel's Central Election Committee, probe Netanyahu

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
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Cameras installed by activists near Arab polling stations.
Cameras installed by activists near Arab polling stations. Credit: Hadash Spokesperson's Office
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

Arab Knesset member Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash-Ta'al) asked Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit on Monday to order that the cameras and materials collected by the Likud at Arab polling sites on Election Day last week be retrieved immediately.

Touma-Sliman, together with Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, asked that an investigation be opened against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his Likud party and the publicity firm that orchestrated the move for incitement, a violation of privacy and of Israel's election law.

The Knesset member highlighted in a letter she wrote to the attorney general a directive by the chairman of Israel's Central Election Committee, Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer, who determined that the cameras that were confiscated by police can be returned to Likud as long as no one files a complaint.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 23Credit: Haaretz

>> Read more: Large-scale intimidation against Arabs on Election Day shows Israeli law must be changed | Analysis ■ PR firm behind Likud's hidden cameras boasts of lowering voter turnout

The Likud party spent hundreds of thousands of shekels to provide its observers in polling stations in Arab communities with hidden cameras.

Police confiscated dozens of these cameras during Election Day on Tuesday, while Netanyahu said there should be cameras everywhere in order to ensure a "kosher" voting process.

Touma-Sliman, who had already contacted the attorney general on the matter in a different letter, wrote Mendelblit that "the cameras are objects that were allegedly used to break the law. Giving them back to those who broke the law obstructs any possible investigation and contaminates crucial evidence."

The lawmaker also said that "any further delay in collecting the cameras and the materials that were documented with them continues to breach the privacy [of civilians who were tracked while voting]. This is an unprecedented and direct incitement by Netanyahu, and this time no just with words but by actions."

Aida Touma-Sliman at her Hadash party headquarters in Haifa, February 6, 2019. Credit: Rami Shllush

Hadash-Ta'al Chairman Ayman Odeh said earlier on Monday that "Netanyahu has crossed all lines in his attempt to violate Arab citizens' right to vote." He added "the cameras was intended to intimidate citizens from voting. There was never such thing in Israeli politics."

The chief executive of the Central Election Committee said Sunday the committee would "look into" the incident and "draw conclusions" before Israel holds another election.

Lawmakers, activists and human rights organizations argue that the 1,200 hidden cameras installed by Likud may amount to a violation of Israeli election law, which forbids any intimidation in the election.

The Kaizler-Inbar PR firm said it was behind the hidden camera campaign, alongside Likud officials, taking pride in "bringing voter participation down below 50 percent, the lowest in years" among Israel's Arabs. In a Facebook post, Kaizler-Inbar said it "prevented fraud."

Campaigner Sagi Kaizler is also responsible for a video published ahead of Israel's 2015 election, which portrays left-wing activists as "traitors" who deserve to be hanged. He formerly served as head of West Bank settler organization Semaria Residents' Committee.

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