Marzel to Monitor Umm al-Fahm Ballots

The Central Elections Committee said yesterday it did not have legally authority to prevent Baruch Marzel, head of the far-right Jewish National Front party, from serving as poll supervisor in Umm al-Fahm, Israel's second-largest Arab city, when Israelis vote on February 10.

Appointments to monitor polling places, the committee said, are the responsibility of the parties themselves, who, "transfer to the regional elections committees the names of precinct committee heads to represent them at the ballot box."

Israeli law allows each Knesset faction to send 40 representatives to polling stations around the country. National Union, an umbrella group of four individual party factions, consequently received 160 positions. Eretz Yisrael Shelanu, Marzel's own movement (which includes the Jewish National Front as one of its two factions) is a member of National Union, and it was that faction which announced it would send Marzel, the U.S.-born Hebron resident to Umm al-Fahm.

The National Union said it would install dozens more supervisors at polling places in Arab communities, in light of what it called, "the wave of election fraud in the Arab bloc and reports from previous elections of contractors arriving with packages full of identity cards and voting in bulk."

"We in the National Union intend to be at a number of ballot stations in Arab areas to prevent the large-scale fraud apparatus the country has been ignoring for many years," the party said.

"Even in Umm al-Fahm law and order must be maintained. It is a city like any other city in the country, and if the National Union receives votes there, someone must be there to supervise," Marzel said yesterday.

"We are a party that not only declares it will protect the Land of Israel, but also operates against the enemies of Israel," he said.

An Arab parliamentarian yesterday demanded the Knesset remove Marzel from the precinct committee. MK Jamal Zahalka, head of the Arab nationalist Balad faction, warned the elections committee Marzel's appointment was, "provocative and liable to foul up the elections process."

"Marzel is known for his racist positions, and his entry into the city was recently denied because of concerns of riots," Zahalka said.

Dr. Apu Agbariya, an Umm al-Fahm resident who is fourth on the Hadash party slate, said Marzel's selection is, "a shameful provocation of the democratic process."