A shameful election ritual

Balad chairman Sami Abu Shehadeh testifies before the Central Elections Committee on 29 October 2022

The lead Haaretz editorial on 2 October 2022:

Just as there is no smoke without fire, there is no Israeli election without a despicable attempt to disqualify the parties representing Arab voters in the Knesset. True to form, on Thursday the Central Elections Committee barred Balad from the November 1 election.

This time too, the petitioners based their demand on Article 7a of the Basic Law on the Knesset, which states that a slate of candidates can be disqualified for denying Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state. A new party called Anachnu argued that Balad’s support for making Israel a state for all its citizens constitutes “negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”

It should not be concluded from this that Balad will not run. This regular ritual usually has two phases: The Central Elections Committee disqualifies, the Supreme Court overrules it. To everyone’s shame, the fact that everyone knows the drill, and the fact that the demand to disqualify Balad is pointless, do not prevent the committee from debasing itself through its disallowance. Politicians have internalized the fact that they can sling as much mud as they like, since the court will clean up after them.

It should be noted that this time, as in previous years, the attorney general opposed the move. In an opinion she submitted to the panel, Gali Baharav-Miara stated there is no obstacle to Balad participating in the election, because no evidence was presented demonstrating that the party was acting to carry out the allegedly problematic parts of its platform, from the attorney general’s perspective.

This year, the committee humiliated itself particularly egregiously, since it was clear from the voting pattern that to the parties, disqualification has become an instrument for causing damage to “competitors” that is employed solely for electoral considerations.

Of the nine committee members who voted to disqualify Balad, five were representatives of the National Unity Party. Representatives of Yesh Atid abstained (in order not to annoy Arab voters, thus reducing voting rates among them). And in the pro-Netanyahu bloc, in parties known for their fondness for the disqualification of Arab parties, it was decided to abstain from voting in the hope that if it did run, Balad would not pass the electoral threshold, thus “wasting” Arab votes.

Balad is a legitimate party representing a discriminated-against minority that seeks full equality and the absolute democratization of Israel. We can only hope that the Supreme Court will not hesitate to overturn the ruling and allow Balad to take part in the election.

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