Why were far-right Otzma candidates banned by the Supreme Court?

The Supreme Court did not ban the entire Otzma Yehudit party from running for election, citing a lack of sufficient evidence that the entire party and its platform are demonstrably racist.

August 27, 2019 03:31
2 minute read.
Otzma Yehudit

An ad for the Otzma Yehudit party with Dr. Michael Ben-Ari, Baruch Marzel, Itamar Ben-Gvir, and Bentzi Gopstein on a bus in Jerusalem, March, 2019. (photo credit: JERUSALEM POST)

In banning two candidates of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party on Sunday, the Supreme Court took clear objection to overtly racist and hateful comments uttered by senior members of the party. It declined, however, to ban the entire party from running in the September 17 election, citing a lack of sufficient evidence that the entire party and its platform are demonstrably racist.

For similar reasons, the Supreme Court also declined to ban the Joint List of Arab parties.

Although observing that some of the Joint List’s members have ostensibly violated the Basic Law: Knesset against supporting armed struggle against Israel, the court noted that the appeals submitted by Otzma Yehudit did not seek the disqualification of specific candidates but rather the party in its entirety.

The appeal against Otzma Yehudit candidates Baruch Marzel, placed number two on the party list, and Bentzi Gopstein, placed at number five, included a series of comments by them which leave little doubt as to their racist mindset.

The appeal, filed by the Israel Reform Action Center, noted Marzel’s interchangeable usage of the word “enemy” with “Arab”, and his numerous references to a desire to expel either “enemies” or “Arabs.”

“It can’t be that the enemy needs to be in the Land of Israel, they need to be gone from here… the Arabs must be thrown out from here, our enemies don’t need to be here. This is something we need to think about how to carry out tomorrow,” Marzel was quoted as saying in the appeal.

In another comment, he said: “There never will be and there never was coexistence with Arabs, and we need to throw out all the enemy from here.”

Another similar comment by Marzel was: “We will convince the Jewish people that it is us or them. The enemy must be expelled now!”

Racist comments made by Gopstein, who runs the Lehava organization which opposes intimate Jewish-Arab relationships and threatens violence against Arab men who date or try to date Jewish women, was also cited extensively.

“The enemy in our midst is a cancer. And if we do not take this cancer and throw it out, we will not continue to exist here and Jews will die every day,” Gopstein was quoted as saying. “This cancer is coexistence.”

In another example, Gopstein was quoted at the wedding of his daughter in 2013 as saying that it was a condition of his to ensure that there were no Arabs working at the events hall where the wedding was held.

With us, we have the purity of Jewish labor,” said Gopstein. “Let’s just say that if there was an Arab waiter here, he would not be serving food. He would be looking for the closest hospital.”

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