Israel Bans Arab Parties From Election

Balad Chairman Asks Why Lieberman is so Afraid of Democracy

by Jason Ditz, January 12, 2009

By a margin of 26-3, the Israeli Central Elections Committee decided to ban the Balad Party from running in next month’s election. By a margin of 21-8, they also banned the United Arab List-Ta’al (UAL-T). The two bans will prevent more than half of the current Arab members of Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, from running for reelection.

The Arab parties earned the ire of the most hawkish elements in the Israeli government by publicly opposing the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip. Balad likewise made enemies by explicitly calling for equal rights for all citizens of Israel, regardless of national or ethnic identity, which the ruling Kadima Party said would “undermine Israel’s identity as a Jewish state.”

A handful of Arabs will remain on the ballots across Israel, running for as-yet-unbanned Jewish majority parties, but with the general consensus among most of the population that Israeli Arabs are traitors based purely on their ethnic background, they would seem to have an uphill battle. Many disillusioned Arab voters may not vote at all, now that the only significant Arab parties aren’t allowed on the ballot.

During the discussion, Balad Chairman Jamal Zahaika called the move to ban his party “a test for Israeli democracy” and warned that the ban would lead to an outright Arab boycott of the election.

Zahaika also asked Avigdor Lieberman, the driving force behind the ban, “Why are you afraid of democracy?” Lieberman declared Balad a terrorist organization and said “whoever values life” would understand the need to ban it.

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