Israel’s Supreme Court ruled on Sunday, March 17, 2019, that Communist candidate Dr. Ofer Cassif, and the lists Hadash-Ta’al (Democratic Front for Peace and Equality – Arab Movement for Change) and Balad-Ra’am (National Democratic Assembly – United Arab List), will be permitted to run in Israel’s April 9 general elections.
The court thereby overturned the disqualifications of Cassif and the entire Balad-Ra’am list ruled by the Knesset’s Central Elections Committee on March 6. In its decisions announced on March 17, the court did disqualify the racist former member of the Knesset Michael Ben-Ari (Jewish Power) from participating in the elections.
The participation of Hadash-Ta’al, which was not actually disqualified by the Central Elections committee as a list, but which was the target of a later far-right petition, was approved unanimously by the court. The participation of Cassif and Balad-Ra’am were both approved by an 8-1 margin, as was Ben-Ari’s disqualification. Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel represented Dr. Cassif and the Hadash-Ta’al and Balad-Ra’am lists in the disqualification motions that were filed against them in the lead up to the elections.
Last week, for the first time, Adalah called on the Israeli Supreme Court to revoke the authority of the Central Elections Committee to vet Knesset candidates. Adalah challenged the constitutionality of the committee’s authority, granted by Article 7A of Israel’s Basic Law: The Knesset, to rule on the disqualification of candidates and Knesset lists. In its current constellation, the elections committee violates due process and the principle of equality as guaranteed by the Basic Law.
On the night of the Supreme Court’s decisions Adalah responded: “For 20 years, Israeli politicians have been exploiting the Central Elections Committee in a racist manner to delegitimize representatives of the Arab public. The time has come to recognize that this committee cannot and should not vet requests to disqualify candidates or parties from running in national elections. This official committee – whose task should be to promote a fair and egalitarian election process – has long been exploited as a tool for attacking minority positions deemed unacceptable to Israel’s majority. The Supreme Court overturns the committee’s decisions time and again, recognizing there is no legitimate cause for these disqualifications. But the candidates nevertheless remain tainted and marked as enemies. Authority must be taken away from the political figures who are exploiting the committee’s power without any constitutional backing.”