Attorney general opposes move to ban Zoabi and Marzel from elections

At least six parties to vote in favor of banning Zoabi; Yesh Atid to vote in favor of disqualifying both.

February 11, 2015 19:03
3 minute read.
Zoabi confronts police at Temple Mount

Zoabi confronts police at Temple Mount. (photo credit: screenshot)


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Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein came out against efforts to bar MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) of The Joint List and far-right activist Baruch Marzel of Yachad from running for the next Knesset Wednesday.

The Central Election Committee will vote on all petitions to disqualify parties and candidates from running in a 13-hour session Thursday. In addition to the votes on Zoabi and Marzel, the panel will bring petitions to ban Yisrael Beytenu, Zionist Union, The Joint List, Meretz and Green Leaf to a vote.

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Weinstein responded to petitions pointing out that Marzel was spokesman for the now-illegal Kach organization led by Rabbi Meir Kahane, and stating that he incites to racism and rejects Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

The Attorney-General said there is not sufficient evidence that that Marzel said the things the petitioners accused him of, but should they come up with proof, there would be serious doubts as to whether he could run without being disqualified.

As for Zoabi, Weinstein wrote that despite "hesitation" and some of her statements potentially having interpretations of supporting armed struggle against the state, which a candidate may not do according to Basic Law: Knesset, she had provided sufficient clarifications to make a case for disqualifying her not viable.

The attorney-general called disqualification a tool which was "an exception within an exception" in terms of how rarely it should be used, with the law clearly favoring letting voters decide what they think of candidates.

Weinstein also noted that even though he was not seeking Zoabi's disqualification, he did not in any way endorse or approve her statements.

Likud, Bayit Yehudi, Yisrael Beytenu, Shas, Yachad and, as of Wednesday, Yesh Atid support banning Zoabi on grounds of support for terrorism and rejecting Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

Zaobi's attorney Hassan Jabarin from Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, submitted his response to the petitions to ban his client to the Central Election Committee Wednesday.

"These are provocative and racist petitions that aim to highlight a racist discourse against the representatives and candidates of the Arab population, only because of their nationality," an Adalah spokesman said.

Jabarin wrote that not only were the quotes that the petitioners used to back their request partial and distorted, but none of them show that she supports armed combat by a terrorist organization.

In addition, Jabarin said previous court rulings state that candidates shouldn't be disqualified from running because of "random statements," but rather if they make repeated, clear statements in support of terrorism.

Jabarin brought an opinion by a linguist stating that Zoabi's call for "grassroots resistance" in an article she wrote for a Hamas website means "a civil, grassroots battle…this expression would not be understood by the Arab reader as support for any kind of armed conflict." Yesh Atid announced Wednesday that it will join petitions to ban both Zoabi and Marzel.

A party spokesman said "Yesh Atid believes in Zionism, in the State of Israel and creating a bridge between groups in Israeli society.

"We oppose extremism on the Right or the Left, whose only goal is to inflame hatred and violent discourse in the Knesset," the party added.

Zionist Union said at first that it would vote in favor of not allowing Zoabi or Marzel to run, the latter on grounds of incitement to racism, but then backtracked.

Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog explained in a video interview with Jerusalem Post sister publication Ma'ariv that the party is waiting for Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein's opinion, on principle, and that is what he did as Labor's representative to the Central Election Committee before the last election.

Herzog denied that his abstention from voting to ban Zoabi was a play to bring The Joint List into his coalition, should he be tasked with forming one, but added that the list's tough talk about not joining any government is because "all the players have to go to their base to get the votes." Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman criticized the party for waffling, saying "a real Zionist doesn’t give in to threats from Arabs,” and doing so "is a continuation of the dangerous deterioration in which public institutions give in to Arab terrorism.”

Earlier Wednesday, the High Court of Justice pressed a petitioner to drop their case to disqualify Zoabi from the already dissolved Knesset, saying that her petition was made moot by the Knesset's dissolution and by pending petitions to disqualify her as a candidate for the next Knesset.

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