Israel’s Ban of Arab Lawmaker From Election Is Unjust

Haneen Zoabi is simply being politically persecuted, but the disqualification of far-rightist Baruch Marzel might hold water.

Gil Eliahu

The High Court will meet Tuesday to decide whether to confirm the disqualifications from the March 17 election of Arab MK Haneen Zoabi and far-rightist Baruch Marzel. Both candidates were disqualified last week by the Central Elections Committee, a move that contradicted the position of both the attorney general and the court itself.

Under the thinking of the attorney general and the court, the disqualification of parties and candidates should be a last resort. In effect, the only possible justification is that the democratic election of a candidate or party could jeopardize democracy itself.

That’s the real meaning of “defensive democracy,” a concept cited in vain by politicians using the power to disqualify as an act of political persecution. Meir Kahane’s Kach party, whose platform threatened democracy based on its incitement to racism, was barred from the 1988 election for this reason.

Today, Marzel’s remarks could be considered grounds for disqualification if the petitioners submitted clear, unequivocal and persuasive evidence and proved that his positions were racist and that he was working to implement them.

But Zoabi’s disqualification lacks all foundation. An Arab MK has fallen victim to a clause permitting the banning of a candidate or party expressing support for an enemy state or a terror group’s armed struggle. Actually, the clause was inserted to persecute Arab elected officials who express support for the Palestinian struggle against the occupation.

Baruch Marzel
Moti Milrod

It’s no coincidence that the clause does not permit the disqualification of someone who has expressed support for other types of violence; for example, terror against Arabs. Regarding Zoabi’s infuriating remarks, even in the interview in which she refused to call the kidnappers of three Jewish teens terrorists, Zoabi noted that she did not support their actions. And she has expanded on her position many times since.

There is no clear, persuasive and unequivocal evidence, as required by law, proving that Zoabi expressed support for an armed struggle. As for disqualification based on denying Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, the rationale is problematic. One cannot prohibit a political discussion on the state’s character and definition, and in any case the High Court ruled, when reversing Zoabi’s disqualification during the previous election, that her opinions did not justify the application of this rationale.

In light of the election committee’s repeated disqualifications of Arab candidates for political reasons, Israel should tighten the requirements and drastically reduce the use of this instrument. Still, Zoabi and Marzel should not be treated equally.