Supreme Court debates election disqualification of Jewish far-left candidate

Full bench of 9 justices hear arguments to bar Hadash-Ta’al member Ofer Kasif from running in April ballot due to comments equating Israel with Nazis

Ofer Cassif

Raoul Wootliff writes,in Times of Israel, ” The Supreme Court convened on Wednesday to debate the disqualification of a Jewish far-left candidate for the Arab Israeli Hadash-Ta’al party from participating in the upcoming general elections, after the Central Elections Committee ruled to keep him off the ballot. The committee, which is staffed by Knesset lawmakers and chaired by a Supreme Court justice, voted last week to prevent Ofer Kasif from running in April‘s election despite the opinion of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit that his past provocative statements were not grounds for disqualification. Israel’s election laws forbid anyone who openly supports armed conflict against Israel or incites racism from running for Knesset. According to “Basic Law: The Knesset,” however, a ruling by the committee to bar a candidate must be approved by the Supreme Court.”

“The petition against Kasif, which was brought by the Yisrael Betenu party, related to statements in which he called Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked “neo-Nazi scum,” compared Israel and the Israel Defense Forces to the Nazi regime, voiced support for canceling the Law of Return and changing the national anthem, and said that Israel was carrying out a “creeping genocide” of the Palestinians. Appearing in front of a full bench of nine Supreme Court justices, Yisrael Beytenu lawyer Yoav Meni said that such “poisonous opinions have no place in the Knesset,” and implored the judges to uphold the committee’s ruling. Asked by Chief Justice Esther Hayut how Kasif’s comments constituted support for armed conflict or incitement to violence even if, in her words, the statements were “very serious indeed,” Meni replied: “He said that the justice minister was a Nazi and compared the State of Israel to the Nazis. We all know what should be done to Nazis.”

“In response, Attorney Hasan Jabaroun, the director of Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, said that Nazi and fascist comparisons were metaphors stemming from Kasif’s area of expertise as a political scientist. “There is no justification for disqualifying me,” Kasif told reporters immediately after the hearing. “That’s what the attorney general said from the beginning, and that’s what we heard from several judges and my attorneys. The arguments against me were refuted in the hearing.” (more…)

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