State files indictment for widespread election bribery in Arab town

This is not the only ongoing large case of election-related corruption in the Israeli-Arab sector.

VOTE AS IF your life depended upon it. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
VOTE AS IF your life depended upon it.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Haifa District Attorney’s Office has filed nine indictments with the Haifa Magistrate’s Court against 11 residents of the northern Arab-Israeli town of Kafr Manda relating to a broad bribery and fraud scheme during the October 2018 municipal elections.
At the same time the announcement was made on Tuesday, the prosecution also closed its probe of the relevant regional counsel head, Moanas Abd al-Halim.
According to the indictment, supporters of Halim offered local voters money to vote for him. Some of these voters agreed to the deal and received bribery funds ranging from hundreds to thousands of shekels for their votes.
Those soliciting bribes are being charged with offering bribery, and those who received bribes with accepting bribery.
One of the defendants, Ahmad Adiv Abdallah, also made separate bribe offers to Halim and to his main challenger, Ali Zidan, offering to garner votes for whichever of them promised to give municipal business to his gardening company, said the indictment.
Both candidates rejected the offer, but Abdallah is still being charged with attempted bribery.
Kafr Manda is 16 km. northwest of Nazareth.
This is not the only ongoing large case of election-related corruption in the Arab-Israeli sector.
In August 2019, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit announced that he would likely indict the Balad Party and its ex-MK Haneen Zoabi for public corruption relating to the 2013 election campaign.
Zoabi was expected to get a pre-indictment hearing to try to convince Mandelblit of her innocence before he would make a final decision.
According to Mandelblit, Zoabi was suspected of forgery, using forged documents, falsifying corporate documents, money laundering and attempts to receive fraudulent benefits.
Also likely to be charged were a staggering 35 other Balad and related officials, including former director-general Iwad Hussein and the party’s lawyer, Riad Mahamid.
They were accused collectively of perpetrating a fraud to receive NIS 3.2 million without properly reporting on the funds in accordance with campaign finance laws.
The forgery and fraudulent documents were allegedly filed to the state comptroller as part of the obligations of parties to comply with campaign finance laws and allegedly continued from 2013 to 2016.
Collectively, the accused were suspected of filing a stunning 1,300 forged or falsified receipts to support their campaign finance filings.
The charges indicated that officials left signs of having created the documents in 2015-2016, even though they were presented as documents dating back to 2013.
Though the campaign donations’ true illegal source appeared to be covered up, Zoabi and party officials allegedly presented the donations as a large volume of permitted small donations.
Both Balad and Zoabi slammed the charges as a “political crusade” to silence their criticism of the mostly right-wing ruling parties.
Zoabi said that the charges were “an escalation” in attempts to eliminate Arab-Israeli politicians like herself who are loud with their criticism, after earlier political attempts to get rid of them had failed.
Balad officials admitted to some of the narrative against those involved, but said that what the prosecution was trying to criminalize were mistakes frequently made by all political parties.
They argued that other parties have faced administrative fines for campaign finance violations, and that criminal charges were being used against them only because they are Arab-Israelis and to hurt them in the upcoming elections.
At press time, the Justice Ministry had not yet provided an update on the status of the Balad case and why no additional public announcements have been made over a year later.
Recent years have seen controversies in which right-wing parties have accused the Arab-Israeli sector of voter fraud at a disproportionate level compared to other sectors.
However, virtually every political party at some point has had at least individual officials accused of fraud or campaign finance violations.
In 2013, the High Court of Justice even ordered a redo of the election in Beit Shemesh due to widespread fraud within the haredi sector there.