From Solidarity 3/21, 11 January 2003
Israel: democratic rights under attack
By Mark Osborn
Stop press: FROM YEHUDITH HAREL
THE ISRAELI HIGH COURT HAS OVERTURNED THE DECISION TAKEN BY THE ELECTION COMMISSION TO BAN BALAD AND MK'S BISHARA AND TIBI. THIS HAS BEEN A MOST IMPORTANT DECISION AND IT MAY GIVE ALL OF US THE OPPORTUNITY TO STRUGGLE FOR THE CONSOLIDATION OF ISRAELI DEMOCRACY, RENDERING ISRAEL INTO A STATE FOR ALL ITS CITIZENS.
The General Election Committee has decided to disqualify an election list and two Arab members of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, from taking part in the 28 January general election.
Hundreds of Israeli Jewish and Arab peace activists demonstrated on Tuesday 7 January outside the Supreme Court Building in Jerusalem during the appeals made by Knesset members Ahmed Tibi and Azmi Bishara, and the Balad (National Democratic Assembly) Party - Bishara's Knesset list. The protest slogans were "Defend democracy, stop Apartheid!" and "Expelling the Arabs is expelling democracy!"
As Solidarity goes to press we are still awaiting the Court's verdict.
The Israeli peace group Gush Shalom declared: "The representatives of the right wing are pushing the Palestinian citizens of Israel outside the boundaries of Israeli democracy. The right-wingers try to entrench their own position. What worries them is the political power of the Palestinian citizens of Israel, and their political convictions, which are contrary to those of the Right, and which support the achievement of a political compromise between the two peoples."
Israeli attorney general Elyakim Rubenstein has claimed that Bishara supported Palestinian suicide bombings and wanted Arab states to destroy Israel.
Bishara states: "I have never called for armed struggle. I have always opposed suicide bombs [I support] resistance to occupation [through] strikes and mass rallies."
Ahmed Tibi, was elected on the on the Hadash list, a front of the Israeli Communist Party. The Hadash programme states that they support "the Palestinian people's right to establish its own independent and sovereign state in the territories alongside the State of Israel and secure borders between the State of Israel and the Palestinian State and the Arab countries [we make an] unequivocal condemnation of attacks on innocent Israelis and Palestinians."
One in five Israeli citizens are Arabs. These moves are a further attempt to intimidate Arab Israeli citizens into political silence.
The banning moves take place in the context of an increasingly bitter Israeli election campaign. The Israeli Labour Party is attempting to open up political space between themselves and Ariel Sharon's Likud after sharing power as junior coalition partners until the end of October 2002. By taking government posts they took some political responsibility for the brutal clampdown in the Occupied Territories. However former Labour leader Ehud Barak has now stated that "the real terror collaborators are the Likud leaders", and the new Labour leader, Amram Mitzna, has pledged to renew negotiations with the Palestinians.
Likud has been rocked by financial and vote-rigging scandals and has been rapidly losing support (mainly to other right wing parties). An Army Radio poll released on Wednesday 7 January showed that nearly a third of the Israeli public believes Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is unworthy of serving as prime minister.
Sharon recently sacked deputy minister Naomi Blumenthal after she refused to co-operate with police and maintained silence over charges that she was involved in granting favours to Likud Central Committee members prior to the party primaries in which she was a candidate.