Supreme injustice in Israel's elections

Every democracy has its redlines, and support for terrorism crosses the Israeli version.

SUPREME COURT President Esther Hayut shares the bench with Justice Uri Shoham. (photo credit: Courtesy)
SUPREME COURT President Esther Hayut shares the bench with Justice Uri Shoham.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Every democracy has its redlines, and support for terrorism crosses the Israeli version. The Central Elections Committee banned MK Heba Yazbak, a member of the Joint List’s Balad faction, from running in the March 2 election in late January, ruling that her comments in praise of terrorists and condoning violence against IDF soldiers constituted support for terrorism.
Nonetheless, the High Court of Justice on Sunday accepted Yazbak’s petition against her disqualification and decided to allow her to run. It also overturned the committee’s decision to ban the Mishpat Tzedek (Fair Justice) Party, led by Larisa Trembobler-Amir, which seeks to gain a presidential pardon for her husband, Yigal Amir, Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin.
The rulings cast a shadow over the public perception of the judiciary. It should be noted that the expanded nine-justice panel voted 5-4 to allow Yazbak to run. Justices Uzi Vogelman, Yitzhak Amit, Daphne Barak-Erez, Menachem Mazuz and Anat Baron formed the majority opinion, arguing that “there was no critical mass of clear, unambiguous and convincing evidence” to justify a rejection of Yazbak’s candidacy.
Supreme Court President Esther Hayut, significantly, led the minority opinion of justices Noam Sohlberg, Yosef Elron and David Mintz against the ruling, saying Yazbak “supported terrorism and her expression of remorse was too little, too late.”
The Central Elections Committee had banned Yazbak in a vote of 27-7 based on two Facebook posts. In one, she praised “the martyr” Samir Kuntar, the Palestine Liberation Front terrorist who led the 1979 Nahariya attack which claimed the lives of four Israelis: police officer Eliyahu Shahar, Danny Haran and his two daughters, Einat and Yael. In the other post, she welcomed the end of a nine-year sentence for Amir Makhoul, convicted of conveying sensitive information to the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah.
Yazbak apparently deleted other social media posts ahead of the High Court ruling, including one praising PLO terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, who took part in the 1978 Coastal Road attack in which 38 Israelis were murdered, 13 of them children.
It did not help the cause of justice that Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit supported Yazbak’s right to run. While he condemned her statements as highly problematic, a representative of his office told the High Court that they did not meet the “critical mass” test to bar a candidate from running for office.
Mandelblit was also on the wrong side of justice when he opposed a petition by Labor MK Itzik Shmuli to ban Mishpat Tzedek from running in the election, telling the Central Elections Committee that Trimbobler-Amir had signed an affidavit stating that her party was not justifying Rabin’s murder but rather seeking Yigal Amir’s release through a retrial.
Most party leaders – including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Yamina leader Naftali Bennett – condemned the High Court ruling on Yazbak. Joint List MK Ahmed Tibi’s support for it was regrettable, although not surprising.
“First and foremost, this is a good decision,” Tibi told i24News. “Heba Yazbak shared two posts. They were problematic and she will not do so in the future.”
Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman called the High Court decision “a prize for supporters of terrorism” and ordered his party’s lawyers to submit a new petition to overturn the Yazbak ruling in the wake of her support for Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement.
Liberman’s directive came after a Haifa court sentenced Salah on Monday to 28 months in prison, after he was convicted last November of “incitement” and supporting a banned terrorist organization.
Yazbak was among the hundreds of people who arrived in court to express their support. “I came here because Sheikh Salah suffers from political persecution as well,” she declared.
Yazbak’s own words welcoming the High Court ruling in her favor smacked of irony. “We will continue to work toward ending the occupation and for lifting the siege, a just peace, equality and justice,” she said.
We urge the court to reconsider these rulings, both on Yazbak and Mishpat Tzedek. It should do so in the name of true justice and in the interests of Israel.