NGO banned from transporting Bedouin voters following Likud petition

Likud, working with right-wing NGO Im Tirzu, cited e-mails Zazim sent to supporters that indicated the NGO planned to provide transportation for 15,000 Bedouin Israelis to polling stations on Election Day so that they would vote for left-wing parties.

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September 16, 2019 12:46
2 minute read.
Im Tirzu logo

Im Tirzu logo 150. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The NGO Zazim will not be allowed to transport Bedouin voters to polling stations as planned, Central Elections Committee chairman and Supreme Court Vice President Hanan Melcer determined late Sunday, in response to a petition from Likud.

Melcer determined that Zazim is acting as an "active election body," despite not being registered as one, under the "V15 Law" limiting foreign-funded organizations' involvement in elections.

Zazim's website calls it "a campaigning community for social and political change."

Likud, working with right-wing NGO Im Tirzu, cited e-mails Zazim sent to supporters that indicated the NGO planned to provide transportation for 15,000 Bedouin Israelis to polling stations on Election Day so that they would vote for left-wing parties.

The Zazim e-mail also described their actions ahead of the election in April, including transporting voters and sending text messages, Whatsapp messages and e-mails, which likely indicated expenses higher than allowed for an NGO not registered as an "active election body."

The NGO also planned to operate an election day hotline for Israeli Arabs to complain about voter suppression attempts, with help from Adalah, an NGO that provides legal aid to Israeli Arabs.

Zazim's Director-General Raluca Ganea said: "Unfortunately, the Elections Committee is helping the Likud's efforts to suppress Arab citizens' votes.

"The ruling is full of factual errors," she argued. "The ruling party's petition against a civil organization with limited resources proved to be a lawsuit for censorship purposes.”

Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman said the decision prevents 50,000 Bedouin citizens living in unrecognized “villages without public transportation or polling stations” from voting.

“This kind of transportation should be provided by the state, but not when their votes could threaten the oppressive regime,” she said.

Im Tirtzu's Legal Division hailed the ruling as "a major victory for Israeli democracy."

"The ruling sends a clear message to radical New Israel Fund-backed organizations like Zazim that the Israeli public will not tolerate their attempts to interfere in the elections," the NGO said in a statement following the decision. "Im Tirtzu will continue to lead the fight against delegitimization organizations who seek to erase the Jewish and democratic character of Israel."

When Likud submitted its petition, it described Zazim as "operated and funded by the New Israel Fund" and "trying to intervene in the election and transport four times as many voters than in the last election in order to strengthen the Arab parties as part of a [Blue and White leaders Yair] Lapid and [Benny] Gantz government."



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