The Zuabi Test

There is no fine or vague line between terror and expressing an opinion that opposes the occupation or identifies with the Palestinians; the gap between the two is wide and deep.

Haaretz Editorial
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Haaretz Editorial

"There is no sufficient, exceptional critical mass of evidence in the matter of Zuabi," equivocated Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, as he explained his objection to disqualifying Balad MK Hanin Zuabi's candidacy for the 19th Knesset.

The High Court of Justice on Thursday heard Zuabi's appeal of the decision by the Central Elections Committee, headed by Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, to block her from running. Ostensibly, the High Court need only weigh and measure the volume of that "critical mass," but its ruling will also determine whether there exists in Israel a sufficient critical mass of democracy.

There is no fine or vague line between terror and expressing an opinion that opposes the occupation or identifies with the Palestinians. The gap between the two is wide and deep. One can assume that if the attorney general believed that Zuabi had committed a crime against the state by being on the Mavi Marmara during the May 2010 flotilla that attempted to break the blockade on Gaza, he wouldn't have closed the case against her. That decision by Weinstein should have been sufficient for the Central Elections Committee. But we're not dealing with rules of evidence or the definition of terror; what we're dealing with is a political crusade against all the Arab political parties.

A democratic society is not measured by the power of the majority or by its capitulation to political consensus. The real test of a democracy is its ability to allow room for the expression of irregular, aggravating, critical positions, including those that seemingly undermine democracy itself. A strong democracy isn't spooked by the voices and opinions of those who don't see the state and its policies as the pinnacle of creation. By contrast, a state that grasps the excuse of "defensive democracy" in order to stifle political opponents isn't worthy of being called a democracy.

The justices on Thursday saw with their own eyes how those who see the court as an obstacle to doing as they please acted violently against the Balad representatives and threatened to harm Zuabi. But it wasn't just rabble that had assembled at the court - there were also MKs there who, if they only could, would do away with the High Court of Justice altogether. Overturning Zuabi's disqualification would not just be a course correction for a democracy that has gone off-course, but a test of the High Court's ability to be a defensive barrier for its loyalists against those who take potshots at it.



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