Don't Disqualify Controversial Arab MK From Running in Israeli Election

The attempt to ban Haneen Zoabi is not only legally unjustified, but severely compromises the right of the Arab public to choose its representatives.

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Haneen Zoabi.
Haneen Zoabi.Credit: Gil Eliahu

The Central Election Committee is to discuss next week applications to disqualify candidates and parties from running in the upcoming election, but it seems that the only application that has a real chance of approval is the one to disqualify MK Haneen Zoabi (Joint List). This shows that the possibility of disqualifying a candidate serves as a political tool to delegitimize Arab MKs, and comes in the wake of the decision by the Knesset Ethics Committee to bar Zoabi from the Knesset plenum and committees for six months.

Before the last election, the Central Election Committee disqualified Zoabi’s candidacy, but the decision was overturned by the Supreme Court, which determined unanimously that it was unwarranted. Nothing new has happened since then to justify disqualification this time. Zoabi’s statement that the abductors of the three Jewish teens last July are not terrorists does not show support for armed struggle against Israel by an enemy state or terror group – one of the reasons for disqualifying a candidate according to the Basic Law on the Knesset. On top of that, Zoabi has stated clearly on several occasions that she does not support that act. Zoabi’s detractors claim that she called for a blockade against Israel instead of negotiations, but she has noted on a repeatedly that she meant a political blockade.

As for her insulting comments to Arab police officers in court — even if her statements against them are infuriating there is no connection between these statements and a basis to disqualify her candidacy.

In a democratic country candidates cannot be disqualified because what they have to say is unpleasant to hear. The Supreme Court has made clear a number of times that disqualification is possible only on the basis of persuasive and unambiguous evidence that the candidate is working directly to realize wrongful goals. It has also repeatedly reiterated that disqualification of a candidate or a party slate must be a very last resort.

Zoabi’s disqualification is not only legally unjustified, but it severely compromises the right of the Arab public to choose its representatives – a basic right in a democratic country. Thus, it is regrettable that the Zionist Camp slate, which seeks to replace the Netanyahu government, has expressed support for this request. In its attempt to garner votes from the center, Zionist Camp is helping to hurt Israeli democracy.

In light of repeated efforts to unjustifiably disqualify Arab slates and candidates, and the continued need for the Supreme Court’s intervention in the matter, the time has come to consider taking this authority away from the Central Election Committee, which is made up mainly of the political majority, which repeatedly abuses its power.

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