At Supreme Court hearing, judge says Otzma Yehudit head’s racism ‘crystal clear’

lawyer for Michael Ben Ari denies accusation, then says 99% of Arabs may be enemies; MK Smotrich spars with chief justice

Otzma Yehudit party’s Michael Ben Ari and Itamar Ben Gvir (R) attend a hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, on March 14, 2019

Michael Bachner and Jacob Magid write in Times of Israel, “The Supreme Court on Thursday held a heated discussion on the candidacy of far-right Otzma Yehudit members Michael Ben Ari and Itamar Ben Gvir, with representatives from the State Prosecutor’s Office urging the former’s disqualification from running in the upcoming elections.”
“Ben Ari, leader of the Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party — now a part of the Union of Right-Wing Parties — has faced multiple bids to outlaw his candidacy under Article 7A of the Basic Law: The Knesset, which lists “incitement to racism” as one of three actions that disqualify a candidate from running for Knesset. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has urged the court to bar him, citing his long history of “severe and extreme” racism.”

Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich

“Ben Ari has insisted he is not a racist and that recent remarks highlighted in the current appeal against him were taken out of context. He says he is against those disloyal to Israel as a Jewish state, not all Arabs. In the Thursday hearing, Aner Helman of the state prosecution argued that the former National Union MK has been inciting to racism for years and that in his recorded speeches throughout his career, he does not make a distinction between the general Arab public and enemies of the state. He said that for Ben Ari, Arabs “have no faces, they are all traitors, a fifth column, and a murderous nation.”
“Helman said it wasn’t only Ben Ari’s words that should lead to him being barred from running in the elections, but also his tactics, such as making fiery remarks shortly after terror attacks, during “difficult moments when everyone’s blood is boiling.”
“Ben Ari, who served as an MK with the National Union party in 2009-2012, is fifth on the slate of the Union of Right-Wing Parties, a merger of Otzma Yehudit with Jewish Home and National Union. Ben Gvir is eighth on the joint ticket. On March 6, the Central Elections Committee narrowly rejected appeals against Otzma Yehudit’s Knesset run by a vote of 16 to 15.”

Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut

“Justice Uzi Fogelman criticized Ben Ari, highlighting a rally he led in the northern town of Afula against a tender that was open for all its residents, including Arab Israelis. Ben Ari claimed during the protest that the tender “has been opened to the enemy as a form of equal rights.” “That sentence is crystal clear,” Fogelman said. “It clarifies Ben Ari’s lexicon of useful terms. This is where this masquerade is revealed. What context of national struggle is there in this case concerning a citizen who wants to live in Afula?” (more…)

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