Israel’s Central Election Committee last week barred both current Member of Knesset Hanin Zoabi and political activist Baruch Marzel (pictured) from running in Israel’s upcoming parliamentary elections.
Zoabi, a controversial self-styled advocate of Arab rights, has been repeatedly accused of incitement against the State of Israel, while the right-wing Marzel regularly stirs up anger against Israel’s Arab population.
The committee met under the leadership of Salim Joubran, an Israeli-Arab Supreme Court justice. There remains a chance the committee could reverse its decision, as it did prior to the previous elections, from which it also initially barred Zoabi.
Zoabi’s short career to date has been characterized by virulence toward the Jewish state, with repeated calls to strip her of diplomatic immunity. Zoabi was investigated and punished recently for her role in a hostile demonstration during which she reportedly became violent toward police officers.
Marzel is a long-time political activist and the media’s poster boy for Jewish extremism. He was previously a senior figure in the Kach movement, which was in 1988 likewise barred from running for the Knesset due to pronounced aggressiveness toward the nation’s Arab population. It was the first and only time that an entire party has been barred from participating in Israeli elections.
The decision to bar Marzel was passed by the slimmest of margins, with 17 committee members voting in favor and 16 against. The decision against Zoabi was more definitive, with 27 committee members agreeing she should be barred from the elections.
The opposition Zionist Camp (formed by the merger of the left-wing Labor Party and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua faction) welcomed the decision, noting that both Zoabi and Marzel “have pushed the limits of democracy and have taken freedom of expression to an extreme.”
Zoabi defended her behavior, and denounced as racist and undemocratic the decision against her. “I have fought against the killing of civilians, wherever the take place,” she insisted. “I fight against racism. This [decision] is not only against me, but against the entire Arab point of view,” Zoabi continued, side-stepping the fact that the committee that barred her was headed by an Arab.
Tellingly, Zoabi found support from the Hamas terrorist organization. Gaza-based Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri agreed that barring Zoabi from the elections (of a state that Hamas says is illegitimate) was an act of racism, but also called it a badge of honor for the firebrand soon-to-be former Knesset member.
Both Zoabi and Marzel have vowed to petition the decisions against them at the Supreme Court.