The left-of-center Zionist Camp Knesset list on Thursday signed on to an initiative to disqualify the controversial Arab Israeli Knesset member Hanin Zoabi from running in the elections in March. Zoabi, of the Joint Arab List, has already been sanctioned over past comments that were deemed inflammatory, and a six-month ban against her participating in Knesset debates expired last Thursday.
In a statement, the Zionist Camp, which united the Labor Party and its leader, MK Isaac Herzog, with MK Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party, said that it would also seek to bar the far-right activist Baruch Marzel from running for parliament.
“The Zionist Camp today signed on to the petition by the Coalition Against Racism to disqualify the candidacy of Baruch Marzel with the Yachad list for Knesset,” the statement said. “The Zionist Camp also announces that it will support the disqualification of MK Hanin Zoabi. The candidates in question are extremists, from opposite ends of the political spectrum, whose [political] activity is suffused with incitement, racism and hatred, to the point where it threatens democracy.”
Zoabi, an outspoken critic of the Israeli government and Israeli society, first came under fire for taking part in the Mavi Marmara flotilla to Gaza in 2010. More recently, she refused to label as “terrorists” the men who abducted three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank and set off a chain of events that culminated in the Gaza war last summer.
“Is it strange that people living under occupation and living impossible lives, in a situation where Israel kidnaps new prisoners every day, is it strange that they kidnap? They are not terrorists,” she said in a radio interview after the abduction of the teens, before it became evident that they had been killed. She was also accused of inciting violence against Arab police officers during a demonstration in Nazareth.
Zoabi’s statements predictably incensed many Knesset members and resulted in the Knesset Ethics Committee banning her from speaking before the Knesset and Knesset committees for six months. Her attempt to have the suspension overturned by the High Court of Justice failed, with Justice Salim Jubran, who is the current head of the election committee, telling Haaretz at the time that Zoabi’s statements were “very difficult.”
Marzel is a notorious ultra-nationalist activist who is running for Knesset with former Shas minister Eli Yishai’s Yachad list. He has often campaigned for the disqualification of Zoabi and other Arab Knesset members.
The Meretz party came out against the Zionist Camp’s announcement that it would support the ban on Zoabi.
In a statement Thursday evening, the left-wing party said: “To our chagrin, the Zionist Camp has joined the shrill right-wing chorus of Zoabi-rejecters. Hanin Zoabi pushes the boundaries of free speech with problematic statements, and yet the attorney general concluded that such statements do not constitute support for terrorism and that he consequently does not support her disqualification. As a rule, politicians should not be the ones to rule on these issues, since they are weighty constitutional matters. It would be best to let the High Court of Justice decide, and we will of course respect any decision that the High Court issues.”
Last week, MK Alex Miller of the right-wing Yisrael Beytenu party claimed that banning Zoabi was in accordance with the constitutional Basic Law: The Knesset that disqualifies parliamentary candidates who reject Israel as a Jewish and democratic state or who promote terrorism.
The request was backed by the rest of Yisrael Beytenu, along with the Likud and Shas parties, which are working together to prevent Zoabi from running.
“I am excited to announce the agreement that has been reached by factions of the nationalist camp to disqualify MK Zoabi, who has time and again come out against the IDF and Israel, and who expresses her support of the biggest enemies of the State of Israel,” Miller said.
On Thursday, the elections committee gave Yisrael Beytenu and its leader, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, less than a week to respond to allegations by Meretz that their latest election campaign is racist.
Meretz party MK Issawi Freij had petitioned the committee to ban the campaign, saying it violated Israel’s anti-racism laws by calling for the revocation of citizenship for Israelis based on race and nationality.
Liberman has long advocated a controversial land swap plan in which towns in “The Triangle” region southeast of Haifa — including heavily populated Arab cities — would become part of a Palestinian state in any peace agreement, and their residents would lose their Israeli citizenship and become citizens of Palestine, in exchange for the Jewish settlement blocs of the West Bank. The party’s election slogan is “Ariel to Israel, Umm al-Fahm to Palestine,” referring to the West Bank settlement and the northern Israeli Arab city, respectively.
Jubran, the elections committee chair, responded to the petition Thursday, requesting that Yisrael Beytenu address Freij’s allegations by February 10.
“Liberman claims to be the lord of the land, with the authority to decide who deserves to be a citizen and who does not, but the citizenship of Israeli Arabs does not depend on him or on his party members,” Freij, himself an Arab, said in a statement.
The party presented its campaign for the land and citizenship swap last month. The proposal could affect some 300,000 Israeli Arabs.