(photo credit: Courtesy)
The lawyer for Dr. Ofer Kassif, the only Jewish candidate in the Israeli Arab Hadash Party (Israel's communist party), told the High Court of Justice on Wednesday that comments Kassif made about attacking IDF soldiers were philosophical and not a call for terrorism.
Kassif’s lawyer, Adalah director Hassan Jabareen, was trying to convince the High Court to reinstate his client as eligible to run for the Knesset after the Central Elections Committee disqualified him last week for supporting armed conflict with Israel.
The committee disqualified Kassif from running for Knesset, while permitting extreme right Otzma Yehudit Party activist Michael Ben-Ari and the Hadash-Ta’al parties to run.
The committee’s decision ignored the recommendation of Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit that Kassif be allowed to run because his anti-Israel statements were objectionable but not disqualifying, while he had recommended disqualifying Ben-Ari due to incitement and racism.
Previously, Adalah filed a petition to the High Court to reinstate Kassif, and on Tuesday it filed a petition declaring the committee’s decisions to be unconstitutional and seeking to remove the committee’s authority to rule on such issues.
Also on Tuesday, Otzma filed a petition to disqualify the Hadash-Ta’al parties and Meretz filed a petition late Tuesday to disqualify Ben-Ari.
Earlier, a lawyer for Yisrael Beytenu, who defended disqualifying Kassif, attacked Kassif for a variety of statements.
The Yisrael Beytenu lawyer said Kassif’s statements calling the State of Israel, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, and others "Nazis" and "neo-Nazis" crossed the line for someone running for the Knesset.
He also said Kassif’s statements seeming to praise those who attack IDF soldiers as heroes were supporting armed conflict against Israel and were worthy of disqualifying his candidacy.
Justices Noam Sohlberg, David Mintz and Neal Hendel all hit Jabareen with hard questions about Kassif’s statements, especially about attacking IDF soldiers.
Jabareen explained that Kassif was explaining the academic debate about whether attacking soldiers is terrorism or part of armed conflict between two warring sides, but that on a personal level, Kassif opposes all violence.
Hendel said to Jabareen that he was asking readers and the court to do an analysis to understand Kassif’s statements. He said it was unrealistic to expect average readers to read Kassif’s journal articles so that they would understand he does not support armed conflict.
Moreover, Jabareen said that Kassif must be allowed to run to support democratic dialogue and free speech and reject fascist tendencies to repress Israeli-Arab MK's criticism of Israeli policies, which creates injustice toward Palestinians.
Earlier, Justices Uzi Vogelman and Menachem Mazuz pressed the Yisrael Beytenu lawyer that he had no relevant evidence to disqualify Kassif under the law.
They said that he was rehashing the history of the High Court denying attempts by the committee to disqualify Israeli Arabs, but was not adding any real legal arguments.
High Court President Esther Hayut appeared to give both sides trouble, though eventually she seemed interested in helping Jabareen find the right legal argument for his side.
The High Court is expected to hear all of petitions over the course of Wednesday and Thursday and render decisions within days since the April 9 election is just around the corner.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>