The Central Elections Committee’s decision Wednesday to disqualify the candidacy of Ibtisam Mara’ana, seventh on the Labor slate of candidates for the Knesset, could not have been more predictable. With the same degree of certainty, we can expect the Supreme Court to overturn the decision.
This is how it works in the Middle East’s only democracy: In each election campaign, the Central Elections Committee is asked to disqualify Arab candidates and parties and the Supreme Court then overturns the decision. The disqualification of Mara’ana, or of any other candidate or slate for the Knesset, is an infringement of the most basic right in a democracy: the right to vote and to be elected.
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In the case of Mara’ana, who was disqualified on the basis of a few statements, it is also an infringement of the right to freedom of expression. Members of Otzma Yehudit collected several old statements of hers, including her demonstrative refusal to stand for the Memorial Day siren, and turned her into nothing less than a hater of Israel who celebrates the Holocaust of European Jewry, calls for Israel’s destruction, incites to murder, supports terror, supports hurting IDF soldiers and so on and so on.
But even Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit announced a day earlier that he opposed the requests to disqualify her candidacy. “In order to demonstrate that one of the determined reasons for disqualification exists, the legal ruling requires that this be the candidate’s dominant purpose and that the candidate actively works to achieve this aim – through repeated and systematic activity – that must be very serious and extreme in terms of its intensity,” Mendelblit explained, and pointed out that the sparse evidence does not support even one of the three possible justifications for disqualification.
Racism? Surely it can’t be that. It’s just a coincidence that the request to disqualify Mara’ana was submitted by the Otzma Yehudit party, the political home of Rabbi Kahane’s disciple Itamar Ben-Gvir and his fellow Arab-haters. To them, this is just “democracy defending itself” against Arabs who threaten Israel’s Jewish character. Only in Israel would a minority’s struggle for full civil rights be perceived as a threat to democracy.
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The support of Likud and Shas representatives for Mara’ana’s disqualification, as they noticeably abstained from the vote on the disqualification of the Joint List and the United Arab List (so as not to hinder Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to court Arab votes), is indisputable proof that the Elections Committee is a political body and that the discussion of the various disqualifications is always political. Bottom line, this is a political body made up of party representatives who disqualify their political rivals.
In light of this, and in light of the fact that the committee’s decision to disqualify candidates or party slates is merely symbolic and contingent upon the Supreme Court’s approval, the time has come to revoke the committee’s authority. Decisions about candidate disqualifications should be put directly to the Supreme Court from the start.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.