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C'tee allows Strong Israel, haredi parties to run
By LAHAV HARKOV
12/20/2012
Central Election Committee rejects petitions aiming to disqualify Strong Israel, Shas, UTJ from running in January 22 election.
 
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.

Four 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 assassination.”

“Kahane is dead, but his spirit is present in the Knesset. Democracy is on a slippery slope of decline,” Pasternak said.

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 abstentions.

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.

Shas representative 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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