Marzel made chief monitor at Umm El-Fahm polling station

Right-wing activist to represent National Union party as head ballot box observer in Arab town.

February 2, 2009 10:08
2 minute read.
baruch marzel protesting 248.88

Marzel 248.88. (photo credit: AP [file])

Far-right activist Baruch Marzel will serve as chairman of a polling station monitoring committee in Umm el-Fahm during the next Tuesday's national elections. The Knesset Central Elections Committee issued a statement Monday noting that it has no legal authority to rule out a party representative from serving on a monitoring committee. The statement noted that the Central Elections Committee approves the factions on the monitoring committees, and it is up to the factions themselves to appoint a representative. The Jewish National Front Party chairman said Umm el-Fahm was a city where "there is fraud" and "a mess." When asked why he wanted to serve in Umm el Fahm, Marzel responded: "My connection to Umm el-Fahm is clear." He also noted that "there are hostile and dangerous elements there that fight against the country and identify with Hamas in Gaza… I've been fighting against them for years." Marzel, who is a former leader of the outlawed Kach movement, along with other activists, have repeatedly tried to hold a right-wing march through Umm el-Fahm but the event has so far been delayed by police and by the Justice Ministry due to safety concerns. The High Court of Justice recently criticized the police and the ministry for failing to allow the march to go ahead. The march will now go ahead within 45 days of the elections. Unlike Avigdor Lieberman of the Israel Beiteinu Party, the Jewish National Front Party "doesn't just talk" but also takes action, Marzel said. Marzel said he also wanted to be supervise a polling station in order to "preserve the votes" of the Jewish National Front Party. He said his party, which ran on a joint-ticket in 2006, won some 30 votes from Umm el Fahm in the previous elections. Afo Agbaria, a resident of Umm el-Fahm who is No. 4 on the Hadash list, called the decision by the Central Elections Committee to approve Marzel "a provocation." "It's not new that someone from the Jewish sector would be the chair of a polling station," Agbaria said. "That's a regular occurrence. But actually the fact that Marzel…with what we know about his right-wing extremism, and his anti-Arab positions in general, and his anti-Umm el Fahm positions specifically, is a provocation." Agbaria said he was calling on the Knesset Elections Committee to reconsider the decision and was weighing whether to take formal action on the issue. Agbaria added that Marzel's role at a polling station could cause confrontations. "This is not someone who is coming to drink tea with us in Umm el-Fahm," Agbaria said. "He comes to tell us that we are not legitimate, that we do not have a right to exist… and of course, it could cause confrontations with him." But the Hadash candidate also suggested that more voters from Umm el-Fahm would come out to vote in defiance of Marzel's post. He warned that Marzel "would not be greeted with flowers." Only 56 percent of Arab-Israeli voters turned out to vote in the 2006 parliamentary elections, and activists say they expect even a lower turnout this year due to feelings of disenfranchisement and frustration over Israel's military operation in Gaza.

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