Strong Israel, Shas and United Torah Judaism will be able to run in the upcoming
election, after petitions against them were voted down by the Central Election
Committee on Thursday.
The disqualification requests were all based on
article 7A of the Basic Law: The Knesset, which says, among other things, that a
party list cannot reject Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
petitions against Strong Israel, by Hadash MKs, Balad lawmakers, the Coalition
Against Racism in Israel and social activist Oren Pasternak, said the party is
undemocratic because it is racist.
Jerusalem Councilwoman Lauren Wharton
(Meretz) and several women’s organizations petitioned to disqualify haredi
parties from running on grounds of being undemocratic in that they exclude women
from their lists.
Alaa Mahajna, an attorney representing Balad, called to
“save what remains of democracy in Israel.”
“Strong Israel’s leaders are
known in the Arab population and the general population as those who constantly
incite to violence,” Mahajna stated.
“Their leaders and followers are the
continuation of [Rabbi Meir Kahane’s] Kach Party, which was declared
illegal. [Strong Israel candidate Baruch] Marzel says Kahane was right –
that’s his political platform.”
When Martin Kiel, a lawyer representing
Pasternak, took the stand, he pointed out that Strong Israel leader MK Michael
Ben-Ari (National Union) brought a book by Kahane to the auditorium where the
discussion was taking place.
Pasternak blamed Strong Israel’s leadership
for “incitement leading to [former prime minister Yitzhak] Rabin’s
“Kahane is dead, but his spirit is present in the
Knesset. Democracy is on a slippery slope of decline,” Pasternak
Strong Israel leader MK Arieh Eldad (National Union) defended his
party’s platform. “It’s true, we want to end the Muslim occupation of
Israel that began 1,300 years ago. Yes, we believe Israeli law should be
applied from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, and that the land of
Israel belongs to the Jewish people. [David] Ben-Gurion did too. That’s Zionism.
If you don’t like it, go back to Basel [location of the First Zionist Congress]
and submit an appeal,” Eldad said.
As for accusations that Strong Israel
is racist because of its opposition to illegal migration from Africa, Ben-Ari
accused the Left of hypocrisy, and asked them to invite the “infiltrators” to
live in north Tel Aviv.
“Infiltrators are making the lives of south Tel
Aviv residents a living hell,” Eldad stated.
The petition to disqualify
Strong Israel was rejected with three in favor, 17 opposed and two
In the discussion of whether to bar haredi parties from
running, Chana Kahat, chairwoman of the religious women’s organization Kolech,
said that ultra-orthodox women begged her to help them.
“They are afraid
and threatened. I am speaking as someone who was raised in haredi
society. I think the time has come to put an end to this embarrassment, this
discrimination and this silencing,” Kahat stated.
Yehuda Avidan pointed out that only two of the 33 Central Election Committee
members are women.
“I’m not going to describe the appreciation that the
Torah and rabbis give to women. Some think that’s just a slogan; I invite them
to see how a haredi household is run. If only all women’s husbands would respect
them like we respect our wives,” Avidan said.
The haredi parties’
disqualification was unilaterally rejected.
On Wednesday, the committee
voted to ban MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) from running for the next Knesset on
grounds of supporting terrorism and rejecting Israel as a Jewish and democratic
state. An appeal of her disqualification will be brought to the High Court.
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