Tony Greenstein | 13 December 2012 | Post Views:

Arab Parties Who Don’t Accept Israel as a Jewish AND a Democratic State will be banned from standing in the General Election

Like the fascist he is, David Rotam, of the overtly racist Yisrael Beteinu seeks to ban Arab Parties

In January there will be a general election in Israel.  It is predicted that this will signify a further move to the right amongst Zionist parties.  The Labour Party, under Shelly Yachimovich, has made it clear that as the government moves to the right, so it will follow.

In 1949, the Israeli Labour Party gained 46 out of 120 seats in the Knesset and Mapam, a ‘Marxist’ Zionist party held a further 19 seats, making an absolute majority for left-Zionist parties, though Ben-Gurion didn’t desire this and consciously sought an alliance with the National Religious Party.
At the last elections in 2009, the ILP gained precisely 13 seats.  Mapam, which has disappeared into Meretz, the civil rights list, gained another 3 seats.  In its 60 years of existence, ‘left’ Zionist parties declined from 65 to 16, whereas the right and far-right of the Zionist movement, together with the ultra-orthodox has become an absolute majority.  Indeed today the ILP holds just 8 seats as its former leader, Ehud Barak, went off to form his own ‘party’ Atzmut, with a few followers.  Meanwhile ex-ILP leader Amir Peretz has deserted to the ‘centre’ party Kadima.

Hanan Zoabi – Balad MK – who is a particular target for Israeli racists

The ILP’s position on most issues is, in any event, little different from that of Netanyahu.  It supported the recent attack on Gaza, as it did Cast Lead in 1998-9.  It has nothing to say about racism in Israeli society itself, unsurprisingly since all the labour Zionist institutions such as the kibbutz were Jewish-only.  Yachimovich has nothing to say about, indeed is quite warm about, the settlers in the West Bank.  And on social policy issues, the ILP is an equally free-market party as Likud.

Indeed virtually the only independent element in the Knesset, apart from the Communist Party’s 4 representatives, unchanged since 1949.  Balad, with 3 seats, and Ta’al (United Arab List) with 4 seats make up the ‘Arab’ parties (although Hadash always has a Jewish MK, very few Jews vote for it).
Following the precedent in 1965, when Al-Ard, an Arab nationalist party, was banned from standing in the general election, there have been successive attempts by the ‘only democracy in the Middle East’ to ban nationalist parties.  Although this attempt by the Elections Commission was overturned narrowly by the Supreme Court in the past 2 elections, there has now been further legislation, such as making it virtually illegal to commemorate the Nakba (expulsion of Palestinians in 1947-9).  Coupled with a move to the racist right in Israeli society, not least in the Supreme Court itself, there must be a chance that either Balad or its Hanan Zoabi, a fiery secular Palestinian woman,  who participated in the Mavi Marmara flotilla and who has been physically attacked in the Knesset, will be banned.

But if, Israeli legislators and judges are so stupid as to ban those parties they don’t like, which don’t accept the hypocritical maxim that Israel is both a Jewish and a Democratic state, when it is clear that the latter always gives way to the former, then it will strip Israel of its last vestige to any claim to be a democracy.  Democracies don’t ban parties unless they threaten democracy itself.  And the only threats to democracy in Israel come from parties like Yisrael Beteinu and its Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, whose followers march to the chant of ‘Death to the Arabs’, the racist Eli Yishai’s Shas or Michael Ben Ari of the National Union Party, whose most recent contribution to tolerance and understanding was to rip up a copy of the New Testament and throw it in a trash can.
I suspect, however, that there will be no proposals to outlaw Jewish racist parties, otherwise there would none but Arab parties and Meretz to contest the elections!

Tony Greenstein

Distortion of ‘defensive democracy’

Disqualifying parties that represent the Arab public would be a serious blow to democracy and broadcast a message of exclusion to this population.

Haaretz Editorial  Dec.12, 2012

It’s a recurring pre-election ritual: The Central Elections Committee invalidates the candidacies of Arab parties and candidates, and the Supreme Court voids the disqualifications. Since 1965, not a single Arab party has been disqualified from running for the Knesset.

This time, the CEC is being asked to invalidate the Balad and the United Arab List-Ta’al parties, as well as to ban Balad MK Haneen Zoabi from running. It would behoove the CEC to resist disqualifying anyone and not force the High Court to intervene.

The right to elect and be elected is basic to democracy and it must be carefully preserved. Disqualifying parties that represent the Arab public would be a serious blow to democracy and broadcast a message of exclusion to this population.

In the past, the High Court allowed the Kach party to be disqualified, but that was justified because the list threatened the essence of the democratic regime, and because by preaching racism it contradicted basic democratic values.

The concept of “defensive democracy” is justified when a party wants to use the democratic process to threaten democracy itself. That’s why many countries have restrictions on anti-democratic parties. But in the Israeli discourse, this concept has been distorted, and it is being used to invalidate parties that don’t threaten democracy but are perceived as a threat to the Jewish nature of the state.
While the Basic Law on the Knesset includes a ban on the participation of parties that reject the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, the courts have justifiably ruled that this clause must be invoked with the greatest possible restraint. It would be worth amending the clause to allow the disqualification only of parties that reject the existence of the state and its democratic regime.

The Basic Law on the Knesset also contains a clause that forbids a list to stand for election if it supports the armed struggle against Israel. It’s understood that a sovereign state cannot give legitimacy to those who wish to harm its citizens. With that, this clause should not be utilized to categorically disqualify Arab candidates who oppose the occupation. There’s something wrong with parties that support continuing the occupation, which denies and neuters democracy, asking to disqualify lists and candidates because they oppose the occupation.

Right-wing parties seek to ban Arab parties from upcoming Israel elections

MKs cite support for the 2010 Gaza flotilla and the denial of Israel as a Jewish state.

By Jonathan Lis | Dec.10, 2012 | 12:57 AM |  2

Right-wing lawmakers have asked the Central Elections Committee to bar United Arab List-Ta’al and Arab party Balad from the January 22 vote – citing support for the 2010 Gaza flotilla and the denial of Israel as a Jewish state.

MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu ) – chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee – wants the Balad slate banned, and Michael Ben Ari (National Union ) and Aryeh Eldad (Otzma Leyisrael ) want both Balad and United Arab List-Ta’al banned.

MK Ofir Akunis (Likud ) wants to disqualify MK Hanin Zuabi (Balad ) as a candidate for the next Knesset.

The Basic Law on the Knesset lets the election committee disqualify candidates or slates whose platforms deny the existence of Israel as a democratic state, incite to racism or support armed struggle against Israel.

Eldad and Ben Ari mentioned comments they say prove that the parties should not be allowed to run for the Knesset. They note Zuabi’s presence on the Mavi Marmara, a ship that tried to run Israel’s blockade on Gaza in May 2010. They added that Zuabi told Al-Jazeera that her party sought to “come out against the Zionist enterprise, against the definition of the state as the Jewish state.”

Eldad and Ben Ari also cited a May 2010 Channel 2 interview with United Arab List-Ta’al MK Ahmed Tibi, who said “the way you pressure prisoners in jail, we will pressure Gilad Shalit.” Tibi said Sunday that this statement had been taken out of context.

According to Osama Sa’adi, secretary general of United Arab List-Ta’al, “As in every election, the extreme right tries to revoke MK Ahmed Tibi’s and United Arab List-Ta’al’s basic right to represent their voters.” Sa’adi said Tibi supported nonviolent struggle and that his party would fight the attempt to ban it from the election.

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