The castigation of MK Heba Yazbak (Joint List) in the Central Elections Committee during the debate over whether she should be allowed to run in the coming Knesset election came as no surprise whatsoever. This hot potato had already been handed off to the Supreme Court.
During the last election campaign, the committee turned into a political kangaroo court, fueled by considerations of publicity and incitement. Committee members granted themselves the right to decide which people and which positions were worthy of being represented in the Knesset. Banning a party or candidate is an extreme, draconic means that violates the right to freedom of association, opinion and political participation. It can only be justified if clear, convincing evidence exists that the candidate – in this case, Yazbak – is considered a danger to national security.
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True, reading the Facebook posts that Yazbak shared on Samir Kuntar and Dalal Mughrabi was disturbing and infuriating, but what Yazbak herself wrote in this newspaper cannot be ignored: “Neither of those posts was meant to express support for their actions. I’m against harming human beings, period, and the attempt by extremists to claim that I’m in favor of hurting children or blowing up buses is absurd and disgusting.” (“Now they’ve decided to disqualify me,” Haaretz, January 27.)
Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, who expressed disgust over the posts she shared, became convinced there was no basis for forbidding her to run, and her sharing of the posts did not endanger national security.
But this was not enough to convince members of the committee, and in particular the renown human rights and peace activist Itamar Ben-Gvir, who had a picture of the murderer Baruch Goldstein, “the doctor who saved the lives of Jews,” hanging in his livingroom until very recently. In a sickening and grotesque performance, the Kahanist quoted – with minor changes – the prosecutor in the Eichmann trial, Gideon Hausner, and said at the committee session: “When I stand before you here, I do not stand alone; With me are standing here thousands more who have been slaughtered, murdered and burnt.”
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I had no expectations from Ben-Gvir or other representatives of the right on the committee. Yet those who embarrassed themselves, and us, are the collaborators of Ben-Gvir found among Kahol Lavan and Labor, who voted for the ban. The right humiliated them once again – because of the fear they would be called “Arab lovers,” they betrayed the principles of morality and justice, broke their word to their voters and partners, and gave their stamp of legitimacy to political persecution on the basis of race and nationality. Meir Kahane would have been proud of them too.
As if this was not enough, along came Benny Gantz and declared his support and devotion to Donald Trump’s “deal of the century,” which includes a proposal for transfer – and from there revocation of citizenship. You have not heard a word about what message this sends to Israel’s Palestinian citizens. The message which emerges is that this is not their country, rather that they are its subjects, and that this country will use them for trade and move them from place to place as it sees fit.
It is painful to watch those in Kahol Lavan, who are trying to signal to right-wing voters through their support for the Trump plan and a ban on Yazbak from running. Not only will they not receive any electoral benefit from it, but their actions turn them into useful idiots for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Their actions are a frightening sign of the future coalition they foresee. They are marking themselves as partners, wittingly or not, to the new consensus that the right is crafting on the matter of Jewish superiority.
The fear of Arabs is Netanyahu’s main political message, and we have gotten used to it. It is a shame that Gantz, in his servility, is echoing what Netanyahu says with pride. Unlike the prime minister, Gantz still has the opportunity to repent.