September 16, 2019

Israel Supreme Court Bars Far-Right Candidate From Elections

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Israel’s Supreme Court voted to disqualify Michael Ben-Ari, head of the far-right Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party, from running in national elections over his racism and racist incitement, JTA reported.

The court decided on Monday by a vote of 8 to 1 in favor of an appeal by the Reform Movement in Israel, represented by the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC). That overturned a decision made by the Israel Central Elections Commission on March 12 to allow Ben-Ari to continue his campaign.

The appeal cited numerous examples of racism and racist incitement by Ben-Ari throughout his career. In arguments before the court on Thursday, Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said Ben-Ari’s racist ideas, which he desires to turn into reality, “constitute the candidate’s central and overriding goal … [and is] a defining expression of his identity as a candidate.”

In May 2018, Ben-Ari, who served in the parliament from 2009 to 2012 as part of the National Union Party, said that Arab citizens of Israel are a “fifth column” that wants to destroy the state.

Ben-Ari’s party, which follows the tenets of the banned Kach party and its leader Meir Kahane, joined with The Jewish Home and National Union parties to form the Union of Right-Wing Parties in a deal brokered in part by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Anat Hoffman, the executive director of IRAC, applauded the decision in a statement, saying, “Today, the Supreme Court sent an important message that racist incitement has no place in Israel’s democracy.  Our Torah teaches that all people are created in the image of God, without any qualifying statements, and we are proud to be the only Jewish movement working to enact this vision of equality in the Jewish State.”

Retired Haifa District Court Judge Menachem Ne’eman told Arutz Sheva that the Supreme Court decision to disqualify Ben-Ari is a “regrettable decision that would further harm public trust in the Supreme Court.”

“I can assume that those people who think like me that this decision is one that shouldn’t have been made will express their opposition by voting more massively for the list in which Ben-Ari was supposed to be included,” he said.