A woman sticks a notice on a ballot box as part of preparations for the upcoming Israeli election. Picture: Reuters/Ammar Awad

Jerusalem – Israel’s Central Election Committee (CEC) has disqualified an Arab candidate from running in the country’s forthcoming general elections scheduled for April on the grounds that he supports “terror”.

However, the CEC has at the same time given a green light to the candidacies of several contenders widely considered racist and right wing, this despite objections of Israel’s attorney-general.

On Wednesday the CEC disqualified the Arab joint slate Balad-United Arab List and Ofer Cassif, a member of political alliance Hadash-Ta'al, from running in the elections, opposing the opinion of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit. 

The committee, however, approved Hadash-Ta'al itself.

Michael Ben Ari and Itamar Ben Gvir from the Kahanist, far-right Otzma Yehudit party, who the committee approved to run in the election earlier Wednesday, petitioned against both lists. 

Petitioners claimed both lists and Cassif supported “terror” and were against Israel's right to exist as a Jewish and Democratic state.

The terror claims follow some members of the Arab party lists expressing support for Marwan Barghouti, the jailed former leader of the Palestinian Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades which fought Israeli soldiers during the second Intifada or uprising. 

Others expressed support for Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi who was jailed for eight months for slapping an Israeli soldier after her cousin had part of his head shot off.

Ironically the CEC’s approval of the Otzma Yehudit party candidates running in April followed an unsuccessful petition brought before the committee against the candidacy of Ben Ari and Ben Gvir on the grounds of their reported racism.

Orly Erez Likhovski, the head of the Legal Department at the Israel Religious Action Centre (IRAC), which represented the Reform Movement in the case, presented the committee with numerous examples of written and video evidence demonstrating that the two candidates have a long history of racist incitement and that racism and racist incitement are central to their platform.

The leaders of Otzma Yehudit support the former Kach party which was established by the late Rabbi Meir Kahane who openly advocated for the expulsion of Palestinians from the occupied territories and Israel proper.  

He also argued against sexual relations between Arabs and Jews.

However, the request for the disqualification of the two far-right Israeli politicians was denied by one vote. Fifteen voted for disqualifying Ben Ari and Ben Gvir while 16 voted against.

“Today, we were the only Jewish voice in the room speaking against racism. Years of fighting against bigotry culminated in our strong case, supported by solid evidence, against the Kahanists,” said Anat Hoffman, the Executive Director of IRAC.

“We lost by a single vote, but the fight is not over. We will be appealing to the Supreme Court. I am proud of our team and our refusal to give racism a place in the Knesset or parliament."

African News Agency (ANA)