The Central Elections Committee on Wednesday banned Balad MK Haneen Zoabi from
running for the 19th Knesset on grounds of supporting terrorism and rejecting
Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
Zoabi’s disqualification will
automatically be brought to an appeal before the High Court of Justice. If her
appeal is rejected, Balad plans to boycott the upcoming election. The
only individual disqualification to be upheld by the court was that of Rabbi
Meir Kahane in 1988.
The committee voted to reject petitions to bar Balad
and United Arab List-Ta’al from running in the January 22 election.
Thursday, the Central Elections Committee will vote on petitions against Strong
Israel on grounds of racism, and United Torah Judaism and Shas on grounds of
discrimination against women.
Over the course of six hours, MKs David
Rotem (Yisrael Beytenu), Ofir Akunis (Likud), Danny Danon (Likud), Michael
Ben-Ari (Strong Israel) and Arieh Eldad (Strong Israel), as well as several
other petitioners, presented their reasons to remove Zoabi and the two Arab
parties from the running.
They cited Article 7A of the Basic Law: The
Knesset, which says a party list or an individual candidate cannot reject Israel
as a Jewish and democratic state, incite to violence or support armed combat by
an enemy state or terrorist organization against the State of
Zoabi and Balad boycotted the meeting but were represented by
Hassan Jabarin, an attorney from Adallah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority
rights, as was UAL-Ta’al.
Rotem referred to Zoabi’s participation in the 2010 Gaza flotilla aboard the Mavi Marmara, saying “If you
don’t think that’s supporting terror, you don’t know what terror
“Democracy has to save itself. We cannot tolerate the demagoguery
about freedom of expression when people are inciting to violence,” he
Akunis also described the Marmara incident.
“She can’t deny
these things; they were filmed,” he said. “The law is clear, and Israel is a
country with rule of law.”
Eldad responded to Attorney- General Yehuda
Weinstein’s legal advice to the committee in which Weinstein said there was not
a “critical mass” of evidence against Zoabi, Balad or UALTa’al.
critical mass?” Eldad asked. “One kiss with [deceased Libyan president Muammar]
Gaddafi? One meeting with the butcher of Damascus [Syrian President Bashar]
Assad? One meeting with Hamas?” A physician, Eldad said he believed in
“We don’t have to wait for someone to explicitly
say the words ‘I support armed conflict against Israel,’” he said. “We don’t
have to wait for someone to be caught committing espionage or treason to
According to Eldad, MK Ibrahim Sarsour (UAL-Ta’al)
called for jihad to liberate Jerusalem.
“Some say jihad is a spiritual
wall, but our cemeteries are full of victims of jihad,” Eldad
Far-right activist and Strong Israel Knesset candidate Itamar
Ben-Gvir compared MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL-Ta’al), a physician, to Dr. Jekyll and Mr.
“Dr. Tibi makes jokes; he runs from studio to studio and is the
star of the Knesset,” Ben-Gvir said. “But there’s also Mr. Hyde, who stands in
Ramallah and makes dark declarations supporting terrorism and inciting to
Strong Israel’s Ben-Ari quoted an interview Zoabi gave several
years ago in which she said she hoped Iran would develop nuclear weapons
“because Israel needs to be afraid.”
According to Jabarin, none of the
proof submitted to disqualify the parties and Zoabi was relevant.
extreme Right just wants to ban Arabs,” he said.
Jabarin accused the
petitioners and others of “unfairly demonizing” Zoabi, adding that they should
examine her parliamentary activity, which dealt mostly with women’s issues and
Jabarin also pointed out that the Turkel Commission, which
investigated the Gaza flotilla incident, did not mention Zoabi, nor was she
convicted of any crimes.
“People don’t want me in the Knesset because I’m
different, but that’s not how democracy works,” Tibi said.
protects the rights of the minority.”
Tibi caused an uproar in the
committee by calling Ben-Gvir a “seventh-rate politician,” leading its chairman,
Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, to call a five-minute break. The
seventh letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which can be used to signify the number,
is also an obscenity in slang.
At the end of the meeting, the petition
against UALTa’al was rejected, with six in favor, seven abstaining and 17
opposed. Balad was permitted to stay in the race, with 13 for disqualification,
one abstention and 16 against.
Zoabi’s disqualification passed with 19 in
favor, nine opposed and one abstention.
Representatives of the Likud,
Yisrael Beytenu, Bayit Yehudi, National Union, Strong Israel, Shas, UTJ and
Kadima voted to ban her from the race, while those from Labor, the Tzipi Livni
Party, Meretz, UAL-Ta’al, Hadash and Balad were opposed. Rubinstein abstained
from all three votes.
Zoabi criticized the committee’s decision on
Wednesday evening, saying it was a “pathetic attempt” to hurt the Arab public’s
“A black flag of illegitimacy waves over this
decision. This is the majority’s tyranny and the trampling of basic
democratic rights,” the Balad MK said. “I remain convinced that the struggle for
full equality is the only possible way for a democracy.”
Jamal Zahalka said the party would not run in the upcoming election if the High
Court did not overrule the Elections Committee’s decision to disqualify Zoabi.
The decision was not a legal or democratic act, he said, but was simply being
used in the election campaign as ammunition by the extreme Right.
problem is not that we are terrorists, but rather that we are democrats in an
environment that does not believe in democracy,” he said. “We are tired of
apologizing for demanding full equality for all Israeli citizens. We are
tired of being suspect just for being patriotic Palestinians.”
Jabareen, the founding director of Dirasat, the Arab Center for Law and Policy
based in Nazareth, predicted that the High Court would overrule the committee’s
vote. If it doesn’t, it will be a major crisis in the Arab community, he
“A move like this has no place in a democracy,” Jabareen told The
“Even if historically the Supreme Court has reversed
[such moves], it has had a chilling effect on political activity. If the court
changes its mind and approves the ban, I think it will have drastic
ramifications on the Arab community and might cause people to stay home on
Election Day and protest this dramatic blow to their political status as
citizens in Israel.”
He added that approving the ban would“change the
rules of the game” and “change the status of Arabs in Israel.”
Turkel Commission said there was nothing illegal in the behavior of Haneen
Zoabi, and this should make the Supreme Court refuse to approve the ban,” he
Jabareen added that in recent elections, right-wing MKs had
consistently used Arab MKs as whipping boys, conducting noisy campaigns to get
“In the past few elections it has become a ritual to
try to ban Arabs lists and specific MKs, and in all of them the Supreme Court
interfered and allowed them to run,” Jabareen said.
“Running in an
election is one of the fundamental rights of a citizen, particularly when that
citizen is part of a minority group,” he continued. “To ban a candidate from the
list is itself draconian, and it should be abolished from the Israeli law books
because it is undemocratic and has been used as a tool in the hand of
politicians to threaten and suppress those in the Arab community. •