Friday, January 23, 2009

To the surprise of absolutely nobody, the Supreme Court accepted the appeals of the Arab parties Ra'am-Ta'al and Balad against the decision of the Elections Board that had disqualified them from running in the upcoming elections.

The background is this. Basic Law: The Knesset makes quite explicit who is ineligible to run for the Knesset. Paragraph 7a states that any party (or candidate) that has among its aims (1) the negation of the Jewish and democratic character of the State, or (2) incitement to racism, or (3) support of an armed struggle against the State is ineligible. The Elections Law clarifies that the determination of in/eligibility is made by the Elections Committee (which consists of representatives of the parties, though not necessarily MKs).

Now, Balad, which was lead for many years by Azmi Bishara, who has fled the country amidst charges of spying for Hizbollah during the Lebanon war, would seem to be a prime candidate for disqualification on points (1) and (3) (and possibly (2) as well, even though that item is intended for Jews). Armed with plenty of evidence, Aviad B began pushing the case for disqualification. Yisrael Beiteinu, which knows a good thing when it sees one, quickly took over the case. Ichud Leumi jumped into the fray and sought disqualification of Ra'am-Ta'al (Ahmad Tibi's party) as well.

In the end, the committee voted 26-3 to disqualify Balad and 21-3 to disqualify Ra'am-Ta'al. (Representatives of the Labor party supported the disqualification of Balad but not that of Ra'am-Ta'al. BTW, this didn't stop Ofir Pines-Paz from attacking the decision as if his own party hadn't voted for it.)

According to Paragraphs 63-64 of the Elections Law, the determination of ineligibility with regard to an individual candidate requires confirmation by the Supreme Court (which means they can rule on substance), while determination of ineligibility of a party can be appealed to the Supreme Court (which sounds like they can only rule on procedural grounds). In any event, the Court over-ruled the disqualification, but has not yet given the grounds for their ruling.

Don't hold your breath that any legal grounds are forthcoming, since there aren't any. The Attorney General opined that the cases lacked evidence. This is a stretch to say the least. In the case of Balad, the party's response to the charges essentially confirmed them. The only argument that can be made in defense of Balad is that the Court holds that the law should say that a party is disqualified only if it advocates violent means to negate the Jewish and democratic character of the State. But, of course, the law does not actually say that.

The Court's over-reaching aside, I doubt that we stand to gain much by keeping marginal extremist parties out of the Knesset. It won't change the balance of power in the Knesset, nor will it diminish the dissemination of pernicious views. These views should be thoroughly discredited as vile, anti-Semitic and dangerous; outlawing the parties that promote them is one way to achieve that goal, but hardly the most effective one. Law is a poor substitute for substance.

In general, the law for disqualifying parties should be exceedingly difficult to invoke. The temptation for political parties to disqualify each other must be quite great and allowing them to disqualify on the basis of intentions is surely an invitation to mischief. And, if the religious parties ever get their act together and threaten the powers that be, you can bet that someone (probably Ofir Pines-Paz) will get the bright idea that they wish to negate the democratic character of the State.


Anonymous Y. Ben-David said...

To me, this clause about allowing disqualification of parties because they don't accept the "Jewish" nature of the state is ridiculous. The Israeli Arabs don't accept it, so why are we forcing them to pretend that they do? The only reason that clause is in the law was to get the support of the Right-wing parties to ban Kahane's KACH party. I think that party should be allowed to run for the Knesset as well. Any party should be allowed to run as long as they don't advocate violence. There is too little democracy in Israel, not too much. I maintain that we, of the "Right-wing pro-YESHA, Orthodox/Religious" Camp would only benefit by a true democratization of Israel, because today, we do not have political power commensurate with our proportion of the population and our position in Israeli society. The secular Ashkenazic ruling clique has worked assiduously for years to maintain their sole control of organs of coercion of the state (Supreme Court, Police, SHABAK, IDF High Command) in addition to their virtual monopoly on the electronic media (which is why they closed down Arutz 7 radio). It is time for these things to be opened up, and it will be through true democratization of society that this will happen. However, this means we, in our camp, would have to allow things we may not be comfortable with...for example Arutz 7 would be allowed to broadcast, but then so would an Islamic station (assuming they obey the law and don't advocate violence or throwing the Jews into the sea), also a Reform Judaism staion, a Neturei Karta station, a "Peace Now" station, etc.
It may also mean allowing state financing of Reform synagogues the way Orthodox synagogues are, assuming they can show that they have a real kehillah behind them.
The point is that OUR CAMP would benefit the most, because we are now underrepresented and don't have the power we are entitled to. By backing real democracy, the ruling Leftist Clique would not be able to oppose what we want because that is their official ideology. Our job is to point out that they are not living up to the ideals that they claim to. This leaves us in a strong position. (BTW-when I said I favor gov't support for Reform synagogues, this does not mean I support total separation of religion and state which is not possible in a Jewish state...the Reform and Conservatives need to understand that things like conversions to Judaism, Kashrut in public institutions and the such would need to be held to Orthodox standards so that everyone can benefit from them----in any event there are few Reform or Conservative Jews in Israel so there is no danger of them taking over).

9:22 AM  
Blogger Ben Bayit said...

While I eagerly await Edmund Levi's minority opinion in the Balad ruling (he voted with the majority against disqualification for Ra'am-Ta'al), I think that every party should be allowed to run.
Banning Kach was the beginning of the end for the Herut liberal democratic right-wing along the lines of Jabotinsky. One can draw a staright line between that decision and the expulsion from Gush Katif (and Bibi's impending expulsion from an additional 15-30 settlements.)

12:12 PM  

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