[DEBATE] : Israel Bans Arab Parties from Running in Upcoming Elections
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Tue Jan 13 07:10:53 GMT 2009
Last update - 01:58 13/01/2009
Israel bans Arab parties from running in upcoming elections
By Shahar Ilan and Roni Singer-Heruti, Haaretz Correspondents and The
Tags: Arab, elections, Israel news
The Central Elections Committee (CEC) yesterday banned the Arab
parties United Arab List-Ta'al and Balad from running in next month's
parliamentary elections amid accusations of racism from Arab MKs. Both
parties intend to challenge the decision in the Supreme Court.
Members of the CEC conceded yesterday that the chance of the Supreme
Court's upholding the ban on both parties was slim.
Arab faction delegates in the CEC walked out of the hall before the
vote, shouting, "this is a fascist, racist state." As they walked out,
CEC deputy chairman MK David Tal (Kadima) and the Arab delegates
pushed each other and a Knesset guard had to intervene and separate
The CEC voted overwhelmingly in favor of the motions, accusing the
country's Arab parties of incitement, supporting terrorist groups and
refusing to recognize Israel's right to exist.
The requests to ban the Arab parties were filed by two ultra right
parties Yisrael Beiteinu and National Union-National Religious Party.
Senior Labor Party figures lashed out at the party's CEC
representative, Eitan Cabel, who voted in favor of banning the two
"[MK] Shelly Yachimovich and I thought we must object to the move to
ban the Arab lists for reasons of freedom of expression," said Social
Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog. "The minority's right to be heard must
be preserved," he said.
MK Ophir Pines (Labor) said from overseas that he strongly objected to
Labor's stance in the vote and that it was not the position that had
been agreed on.
Labor chairman Ehud Barak, however, did not comment on the vote and
his aides said he would not deal with political issues these days.
Cabel tried to explain his support of the ban, despite Labor's
decision to vote against it.
"It's true we said we wouldn't ban, but [Balad leader MK Jamal]
Zahalka's statement that he was in touch with Bishara led me to think
that we must draw the line somewhere," he said. "I'm making no
apologies because I fight more than most in the Knesset for equal
rights for Arabs. I know it won't stand up in the Supreme Court, and
rightly so, because there is no evidentiary basis for the
Members of the the new Meretz alignment reacted angrily to the decision.
"Labor and Kadima's position is a declaration of war on Israel's Arab
citizens," a party member said. "Do Barak and Livni really prefer
blocking Israel's Arabs' right to parliamentary activity and driving
them to street demonstrations?"
"Every time a clear statement to ensure basic civil rights of the Arab
minority is required, Labor and Kadima choose to side with the radical
right wing for populist motives, to deprive the Arabs of their
fundamental democratic rights," party chairman Haim Oron said.
Arab lawmakers Ahmed Tibi and Zahalka, political rivals who head the
two Arab blocs in the Knesset, joined together in condemning
"It was a political trial led by a group of fascists and racists who
are willing to see the Knesset without Arabs and want to see the
country without Arabs," said Tibi.
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