Israel bans Arab parties from elections

January 12, 2009 at 10:59 pm | Posted in International | Leave a comment

This is quite astonishing:

The Central Elections Committee on Monday banned Arab political parties from running in next month’s parliamentary elections, drawing accusations of racism by an Arab lawmaker who said he would challenge the decision in the country’s Supreme Court.

[…]

Knesset spokesman Giora Pordes said the election committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of the motion, accusing the country’s Arab parties of incitement, supporting terrorist groups and refusing to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Arab lawmakers have traveled to countries listed among Israel’s staunchest enemies, including Lebanon and Syria. The 37-member committee is composed of representatives from Israel’s major political parties. The measure was proposed by two ultranationalist parties but received widespread support.

Over at Foreign Policy Watch, Matt Eckel has it exactly right:

To issue a blanket ban on the existing Arab Knesset bloc, though, stinks of institutional disenfranchisement. In effect, it tells Israeli Arabs that they’re free to vote, but there won’t be anyone on the ballot that represents their views or interests. I understand concerns about Arab politicians’ taking less-than-supportive stances with regard to the latest war. I understand concerns about Arab politicians traveling to less-than-friendly countries. The fact is, though, that roughly 20% of the Israeli population is Arab. One of Israel’s redeeming qualities – one of the things that prevents all the comparisons with South Africa from sticking – is that this segment of the population has citizenship rights. They’re not complete, and there are outstanding issues with Israel’s Arab population that sorely need to be addressed, but at the end of the day they’re citizens with representation in a democracy, and can use that representation to peacefully and legally improve their lot.

Today’s decision represents a giant step away from that ideal.

I was going to make a comment somewhere along the lines of “well, this is something of an international public relations disaster”, but I guess it’s blindingly obvious at this point that Israel is past caring what the international community thinks.

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