The Likud Party purchased for the last Knesset election 1,200 cameras for its polling station monitors in Arab communities, with the alleged aim of “monitoring the purity of elections.” This move was made despite The Basic Law: The Knesset, which states elections must be secret and equal nationwide, and despite it being clear this action was meant to intimidate Arab voters and to deter them from exercising their democratic right. The chairman of the Central Elections Committee, Hanan Melcer, who handled the Election Day complaints, permitted the cameras to be used as audio recorders in cases where there was “a suspicion of substantive harm being done to the purity of elections or their orderly conduct.”
The chairman legitimized through his tepid response an anti-democratic action that shames an entire public and whose sole aim is to reduce the percentage of voters in Arabic-speaking communities. The Adalah organization appealed some two weeks ago to Melcer to ban the use of the cameras in polling stations in Arab communities during the upcoming election. This appeal is most justified. A day after the previous election, the Keizler-Inbar public relations firm, which was responsible for the Likud camera operation, boasted on its Facebook page that “because we had observers in all the polling stations, the voter participation rate plunged to lower than 50 percent, the lowest seen in recent years.”
>> Read more: Large-scale intimidation against Arabs on Election Day shows Israeli law is flawed | Analysis ■ Israel's AG must order an inquiry into Likud cameras placed in Arab polling stations | Editorial
For years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has led a campaign of incitement to delegitimize Arab citizens of Israel in general, and their participation in the democratic process in particular. The world will long remember his joyous calls on election day in 2015 for Likud voters to race to the polling stations to rescue the nation from the danger entailed by Arab citizens exercising their democratic right. The nation-state law, which anchors the inferiority of Arab citizens, provides a legal expression of this same spirit, which deems a fifth of the state’s citizens as second class citizens, and strives to undermine their rights to equality.
Judge Melcer has sought to maintain a smooth voting process and to prevent confrontations, but the wording of his decision opens the door to posting cameras in Arab communities. The next election will be held in less than seven weeks; the Central Elections Committee and its chairman have enough time to arrange for who exactly should be permitted to monitor and how, in observance of the principle of balloting secrecy and proper conduct of an election, in such a way to prevent any ethnic and racial profiling.
Melcer has the mission of defending the purity of elections. He must make clear to the party in power and to all parties that they cannot send their own people out to monitor and intimidate Arab citizens.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.