C'tee bars Zoabi from polls for supporting terror

Zoabi: "A black flag of illegitimacy waves over this decision"; Balad: Party will not run if decision is not overruled.

Balad MK Haneen Zoabi 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Balad MK Haneen Zoabi 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The Central Elections Committee on Wednesday banned Balad MK Haneen Zoabi from running for the 19th Knesset on grounds of supporting terrorism and rejecting Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
Zoabi’s disqualification will automatically be brought to an appeal before the High Court of Justice. If her appeal is rejected, Balad plans to boycott the upcoming election. The only individual disqualification to be upheld by the court was that of Rabbi Meir Kahane in 1988.
The committee voted to reject petitions to bar Balad and United Arab List-Ta’al from running in the January 22 election.
On Thursday, the Central Elections Committee will vote on petitions against Strong Israel on grounds of racism, and United Torah Judaism and Shas on grounds of discrimination against women.
Over the course of six hours, MKs David Rotem (Yisrael Beytenu), Ofir Akunis (Likud), Danny Danon (Likud), Michael Ben-Ari (Strong Israel) and Arieh Eldad (Strong Israel), as well as several other petitioners, presented their reasons to remove Zoabi and the two Arab parties from the running.
They cited Article 7A of the Basic Law: The Knesset, which says a party list or an individual candidate cannot reject Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, incite to violence or support armed combat by an enemy state or terrorist organization against the State of Israel.
Zoabi and Balad boycotted the meeting but were represented by Hassan Jabarin, an attorney from Adallah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority rights, as was UAL-Ta’al.
Rotem referred to Zoabi’s participation in the 2010 Gaza flotilla aboard the Mavi Marmara, saying “If you don’t think that’s supporting terror, you don’t know what terror is.”
“Democracy has to save itself. We cannot tolerate the demagoguery about freedom of expression when people are inciting to violence,” he said.
Akunis also described the Marmara incident.
“She can’t deny these things; they were filmed,” he said. “The law is clear, and Israel is a country with rule of law.”
Eldad responded to Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein’s legal advice to the committee in which Weinstein said there was not a “critical mass” of evidence against Zoabi, Balad or UALTa’al.
Click for full JPost coverage
Click for full JPost coverage
“What’s a critical mass?” Eldad asked. “One kiss with [deceased Libyan president Muammar] Gaddafi? One meeting with the butcher of Damascus [Syrian President Bashar] Assad? One meeting with Hamas?” A physician, Eldad said he believed in “preventative medicine.”
“We don’t have to wait for someone to explicitly say the words ‘I support armed conflict against Israel,’” he said. “We don’t have to wait for someone to be caught committing espionage or treason to disqualify them.”
According to Eldad, MK Ibrahim Sarsour (UAL-Ta’al) called for jihad to liberate Jerusalem.
“Some say jihad is a spiritual wall, but our cemeteries are full of victims of jihad,” Eldad said.
Far-right activist and Strong Israel Knesset candidate Itamar Ben-Gvir compared MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL-Ta’al), a physician, to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
“Dr. Tibi makes jokes; he runs from studio to studio and is the star of the Knesset,” Ben-Gvir said. “But there’s also Mr. Hyde, who stands in Ramallah and makes dark declarations supporting terrorism and inciting to violence.”
Strong Israel’s Ben-Ari quoted an interview Zoabi gave several years ago in which she said she hoped Iran would develop nuclear weapons “because Israel needs to be afraid.”
According to Jabarin, none of the proof submitted to disqualify the parties and Zoabi was relevant.
“The extreme Right just wants to ban Arabs,” he said.
Jabarin accused the petitioners and others of “unfairly demonizing” Zoabi, adding that they should examine her parliamentary activity, which dealt mostly with women’s issues and welfare.
Jabarin also pointed out that the Turkel Commission, which investigated the Gaza flotilla incident, did not mention Zoabi, nor was she convicted of any crimes.
“People don’t want me in the Knesset because I’m different, but that’s not how democracy works,” Tibi said.
“Democracy protects the rights of the minority.”
Tibi caused an uproar in the committee by calling Ben-Gvir a “seventh-rate politician,” leading its chairman, Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, to call a five-minute break. The seventh letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which can be used to signify the number, is also an obscenity in slang.
At the end of the meeting, the petition against UALTa’al was rejected, with six in favor, seven abstaining and 17 opposed. Balad was permitted to stay in the race, with 13 for disqualification, one abstention and 16 against.
Zoabi’s disqualification passed with 19 in favor, nine opposed and one abstention.
Representatives of the Likud, Yisrael Beytenu, Bayit Yehudi, National Union, Strong Israel, Shas, UTJ and Kadima voted to ban her from the race, while those from Labor, the Tzipi Livni Party, Meretz, UAL-Ta’al, Hadash and Balad were opposed. Rubinstein abstained from all three votes.
Zoabi criticized the committee’s decision on Wednesday evening, saying it was a “pathetic attempt” to hurt the Arab public’s representation.
“A black flag of illegitimacy waves over this decision. This is the majority’s tyranny and the trampling of basic democratic rights,” the Balad MK said. “I remain convinced that the struggle for full equality is the only possible way for a democracy.”
Balad leader Jamal Zahalka said the party would not run in the upcoming election if the High Court did not overrule the Elections Committee’s decision to disqualify Zoabi. The decision was not a legal or democratic act, he said, but was simply being used in the election campaign as ammunition by the extreme Right.
“Our problem is not that we are terrorists, but rather that we are democrats in an environment that does not believe in democracy,” he said. “We are tired of apologizing for demanding full equality for all Israeli citizens. We are tired of being suspect just for being patriotic Palestinians.”
Yousef T. Jabareen, the founding director of Dirasat, the Arab Center for Law and Policy based in Nazareth, predicted that the High Court would overrule the committee’s vote. If it doesn’t, it will be a major crisis in the Arab community, he said.
“A move like this has no place in a democracy,” Jabareen told The Jerusalem Post.
“Even if historically the Supreme Court has reversed [such moves], it has had a chilling effect on political activity. If the court changes its mind and approves the ban, I think it will have drastic ramifications on the Arab community and might cause people to stay home on Election Day and protest this dramatic blow to their political status as citizens in Israel.”
He added that approving the ban would“change the rules of the game” and “change the status of Arabs in Israel.”
“The Turkel Commission said there was nothing illegal in the behavior of Haneen Zoabi, and this should make the Supreme Court refuse to approve the ban,” he said.
Jabareen added that in recent elections, right-wing MKs had consistently used Arab MKs as whipping boys, conducting noisy campaigns to get them disqualified.
“In the past few elections it has become a ritual to try to ban Arabs lists and specific MKs, and in all of them the Supreme Court interfered and allowed them to run,” Jabareen said.
“Running in an election is one of the fundamental rights of a citizen, particularly when that citizen is part of a minority group,” he continued. “To ban a candidate from the list is itself draconian, and it should be abolished from the Israeli law books because it is undemocratic and has been used as a tool in the hand of politicians to threaten and suppress those in the Arab community. •