The Knesset’s Central Election Committee voted on Wednesday, March 6, to disqualify from participating in the upcoming April 9 general elections the combined Arab slate of Balad-United Arab List. While the committee approved the participation of the Hadash-Ta’al ticket in the elections, it did however decide to bar one candidate from this alliance from running, leading Communist activist Dr. Ofer Cassif who was positioned in the fifth place for this list. In doing so the committee rejected the opinion of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit who opposed disqualifying any of the lists or candidates submitted by the various political parties last month.
Racists Michael Ben Ari and Itamar Ben-Gvir from the Kahanist, far-right Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Strength) party, who the committee approved to run in the election earlier Wednesday, petitioned against both the Balad-United Arab List and the Hadash-Ta’al. Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman condemned the committee’s decision: “Two racists who seek to implement the doctrine of Kahane – who was himself denounced and removed from the parliamentary arena – make a comeback under the sponsorship of Netanyahu and the blessings of the rest of the right.” Touma-Sliman said it’s “a disgrace that those who call for transfer, deportation and murder get a stamp of approval that legitimizes their opinions – and that Israeli society can be forgiving towards and hear” such vile positions.
The Central Election Committee, made up of representatives from the parties of the 20th Knesset, voted on Wednesday night to ban Cassif by a vote of 15 for and 10 against. Three members from Shas and the ultra-orthodox United Torah Judaism abstained in the vote, while the representatives from Kulanu and Hatnua entirely absented themselves from the session.
In response to the vote disqualifying him, Cassif said that the decision proves “the committee is led by discriminatory and exclusionary politics. They do not adhere to democracy and the rule of law, but racism and hatred for the Arab-Palestinian national minority and for all democratic forces.”
A statement issued by the Hadash-Ta’al list following the Central Elections Committee’s decision to disqualify Cassif said: “It is both shameful and a disgrace that Kahanist thugs and the agitator Avigdor Lieberman are those who dictate the agenda of the Central Elections Committee. Cassif’s disqualification is yet another step in the curtailing of [Israel’s] democratic space and the silencing of any voice opposing a discriminatory and racist regime. Hadash-Ta’al will continue to present a clear voice for peace, equality and social justice. We are proud of Dr. Ofer Cassif. Opposing the occupation is not against the law.” MK Ayman Odeh, who leads the Hadash-Ta’al slate, denounced the barring of Cassif, saying it was an attempt to “silence those who oppose a discriminatory and racist regime.”
According to Haaretz, American Jewish groups that had petitioned against the participation of the racist Otzma Yehudit’s far-right party in the upcoming Knesset elections expressed their dismay on Wednesday after the Central Elections Committee decided to allow the party to run.
“Israel’s Supreme Court banned Kahanists from the Knesset in the 1980s and they are still designated as terrorist groups in the United States and other countries,” said the CEO of the New Israel Fund, Daniel Sokatch. “There is no question that Kahanists do not belong in the Knesset. These American groups also expressed their disappointment that the Central Elections Committee banned Hadash candidate Cassif and the combined slate of Balad-United Arab List.
Among the US groups that supported the petition against Otzma Yehudit in the elections were J Street, the Israel Religious Action Center on behalf of the Reform Movement, the National Council of Jewish Women, Americans for Peace Now, Partners for Progressive Israel, T’ruah – The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, Ameinu, the Jewish Labor Committee, Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Assembly.