Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Two Arab Parties Disqualified

Maayana Miskin Two Arab Parties Disqualified

"Each vote for Kadima is a bullet in the chest of a Palestinian child in Gaza”--so said Knesset Member Ahmed Tibi as his party, Ra'am Ta'al, was disqualified on Monday. The Knesset's Central Elections Committee voted 26-3 to disqualify both Ra'am Ta'al and fellow Arab party Balad due to the parties' opposition to the Jewish State of Israel and incitement against the state. The Jewish Likud party responded to Tibi's criticism in kind, saying, “Each vote for Tibi is a vote for a Grad missile on Ashkelon and the south.”

Tibi accused the committee of racism, saying his party had been disqualified simply because it is an Arab party. “This tribunal's role is to incite and slander an entire collective due to its ethnicity. They don't want to see Arab representatives in the Knesset,” Tibi claimed. Seven of the 11 Israeli Arabs currently serving as Members of Knesset belong to either Balad or Ra'am Ta'al.

Even the Labor party's dovish Eitan Cabel voted to disqualify the Arab parties. He said that after he heard the extremist remarks of the Arab Knesset members in the committee session, he had no choice but to vote to disqualify them from running national elections.

The National Union and Israel Is Our Home parties initiated the move to disqualify the Arab parties claiming that they did not respect Israel's legally-mandated status as a Jewish state and that they supported terrorism. National Union Chairman Yaakov "Ketzaleh" Katz applauded the decision of the Central Elections Committee saying, "There is no room in the Knesset for collaborators with the enemy."

Tibi expressed confidence that the High Court of Appeals would overturn the election committee's decision. “It's obvious the court won't disqualify us,” he said. He also slammed the Jewish nationalist parties, calling Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home) “the Israeli fascist party” and accusing them as a whole of persecuting Arab MKs.

Following the hearing in which the parties were banned, Knesset workers were forced to intervene to prevent Arab MKs from coming to blows with committee chairman MK David Tal of Kadima. Tal and MK Jamal Zahalka exchanged insults, with Zahalka calling Tal a “fascist” and Tal telling Zahalka, “Go back to Syria.”

Kadima aides responded to Tibi and Zahalka, saying, “Tibi and his colleagues support Hamas and terrorism and object to any defensive measure taken by Israel. Their babble is meaningless.” Kadima accepts opposing political views, but within limits, they said. “Kadima believes Israel's Knesset must represent those with different opinions regarding what is good for Israel, not what's good for Hamas,” they explained.

Prior to the 2003 elections, the Central Elections Committee banned the Balad party and Ahmad Tibi of the Ta'al party from running by a one-vote margin.

The bans were overturned by the Israeli Supreme Court sitting as the High Court of Appeals. Supreme Court Justice Misha'el Kheshin told the election committee that Bishara's past expressions of support for Hezbollah in Lebanon had angered him, although he voted to allow him to run in the elections because "Israel's democracy is strong and can tolerate irregular cases", and thought that there was insufficient evidence for the ban.

On April 22, 2007, MK Bishara fled the State of Israel and resigned from the Knesset following a police investigation into his alleged assistance of the enemy during the 2006 Second Lebanon War and various other criminal charges including money laundering.

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