New Right announces deaf rights activist as first-ever deaf Knesset candidate
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Elections 2019

New Right announces deaf rights activist as first-ever deaf Knesset candidate

Bennett says Shirley Pinto joined party so Israel can ‘return to being victorious in the fight for the rights of people with disabilities’

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

New Right heads Naftali Bennett (L) and Ayelet Shaked (R) with Knesset candidate deaf rights activist Shirley Pinto, January 8, 2019. (New Right)
New Right heads Naftali Bennett (L) and Ayelet Shaked (R) with Knesset candidate deaf rights activist Shirley Pinto, January 8, 2019. (New Right)

The newly formed New Right party announced Tuesday that deaf rights activist Shirley Pinto will be joining it and running on the party slate in April’s elections as the first-ever deaf Knesset candidate.

Pinto, 30, a co-founder of the Israeli Center for Deaf Studies and a former representative for Israel at the World Federation of the Deaf, is the second fresh candidate to join the New Right’s slate after leaders Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked announced the formation of the party last week.

Deaf from birth, Pinto “decided to dedicate her life to changing reality for the deaf and hearing-impaired community,” the party said in a statement. After serving as a project officer in the Israeli Air Force and receiving the presidential award for excellence, she earned a BA in law from Netanya Academic College.

She then co-founded the Israeli Center for Deaf Studies, which aims to “create awareness in the State of Israel of recognizing sign language as equal to spoken languages, and to create awareness of the necessity of accessibility for deaf people,” according to its website.

Announcing that she would be joining the party’s slate, Bennett described Pinto as “a true fighter for social issues,” promising that her candidacy “will make history and break through a glass ceiling for the deaf community in Israel.”

Describing her addition to the party as “one of my proudest moments since entering public life,” Bennett said Pinto’s “entry into the leadership arena is just a first step, but a great leap forward toward a future of equality and acceptance of others. Together, we will continue to strengthen Israeli society, so that Israel can return to being victorious, including in the fight for the rights of people with disabilities.”

Pinto said that as Knesset member-hopeful, she will “continue to work with all my might, as I have in the past, for people with disabilities in Israel and to be your force in the Knesset with the goal of making Israel an accessible, equal, and inclusive society.”

Shaked framed the decision to include Pinto in the slate as part of the New Right’s plan to “enact right-wing policies with social sensitivity.”

Jerusalem Post Senior Contributing Editor Caroline Glick speaks at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference, held at Waldorf Astoria hotel in Jerusalem. November 18, 2015. (Miriam Alster /Flash90)

Pinto joins right-wing columnist Caroline Glick, who was announced as a New Right candidate last week, and MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, who broke away from the Jewish Home party together with Bennett and Shaked. Four of the five candidates on the so-far-revealed slate are female.

Glick is senior staffer and columnist of The Jerusalem Post, a writer for US far-right outlet Breitbart News and a senior fellow of the US-based Center for Security Policy.

Bennett and Shaked announced at the end of December that they were departing the Jewish Home party to forge a “true partnership between secular and religious,” saying that the stalwart party of religious Zionism had lost its ability to influence Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and that a new right-wing platform was needed to challenge the premier.

Bennett said last week that the electoral slate being compiled “will increase the right-wing bloc,” and promised that with other high-profile candidates seeking to join, “further surprises are expected.”

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