Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Arab parties disqualified from elections‏

via IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

from http://www.ynetnews.com/Ext/Comp/ArticleLayout/CdaArticlePrintPreview/1,2506,L-3654866,00.html

Central Elections Committee determines Balad, United Arab List-Ta'al parties ineligible to run in February 2009, on grounds that they don't recognize the state and call for armed conflict against it. Tibi: This is a racist country
Aviad Glickman

The party lists for the Arab parties Balad and United Arab List-Ta'al have been disqualified from running in Israel's upcoming elections in February, the country's Central Elections Committee ruled Monday, following a heated meeting.

Balad was disqualified by a vote of 26 to three, with one abstention, while 21 committee members voted in favor of disqualifying the United Arab List-Ta'al, with eight members voting against and two members abstaining. The Central Elections Committee is comprised of members of all party factions.

During the meeting, MK Ahmad Tibi (UAL-Ta'al) addressed the ongoing operation in Gaza, saying, "we object to targeting civilians and you are committing genocide in Gaza. You're murdering children."

MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) responded by saying, "We thought you were a friend of Israel and therefore we didn't question your party list. Where were you for the past eight years when Sderot was under attack?"

Representatives of the Arab parties walked out of the committee meeting when a vote in favor of their disqualification appeared imminent. Shortly afterwards, there was a heated confrontation between Tibi, along with Balad Chairman Jamal Zahalka on one side, and MK David Tal (Kadima).

"You drink Palestinian blood. You are a racist," Zahalka said to Tal. "You went to war as an elections campaign strategy," added Tibi. "Every vote for Kadima is a bullet in the chest of a Palestinian child."

Tibi later told the press in response to the decision that "this is a racist country. We are accustomed to these types of struggles and we will win." Tibi had expected the support of the eight Kadima members of the committee.

"This decision strives for a Knesset without Arabs that will only lead to the increased solidarity between the Arab public and its leadership," he added.

Zahalka likewise said that he is not surprised by the decision "because the vote was taken for political motives due to the war atmosphere... The committee members sought to increase their popularity at our expense on the backdrop of the elections."

"Labor representatives bent to pressure that was exerted on (Defense Minister and party chairman) Ehud Barak," Zahalka claimed.

MKs Zahalka (L) and Tibi during meeting (Photo: Dudi Vaaknin)

On the other side of the spectrum, Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman MK Avigdor Lieberman said, "Now that it has been decided that the Balad terrorist organization will not be able to run, the first battle is over."

Lieberman added, "The next battle is making Balad illegal because it is a terrorist organization whose objective is harming the State of Israel."

Yisrael Beiteinu is one of three separate parties that petitioned the Central Elections Committee over the past several weeks to disqualify Balad, the others being the Jewish Home party and Itay Furman, a former member of the Shinui party.

A test for the High Court

All three motions claimed that Balad must be disqualified on grounds that it does not recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland, and that it advocates an armed conflict against it. Israel's High Court of Justice, in the past, has overturned votes to disqualify Balad from national elections that were based on similar grounds.

"The High Court of Justice is the body to make a final decision. We're used to these types of struggles and used to winning them and I'm sure the decision by the Central Elections Committee will only increase solidarity for the Arab parties," Tibi said.

As of Sunday night, Balad had not decided whether it would appeal to the High Court, but did threaten to boycott elections if the decision is not overturned.

"If Balad, at the end of the day, is disqualified, it will create a deep rift between the State and the Arab population," a party representative said.

Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel told Ynet that the party had not planned on voting in favor of Balad's disqualification, but the fact that Zahalka "sat there and said the party was in daily contact with Azmi Bishara" made him change his mind.

"Labor's conduct in this affair was patriotic," he added, "we had to make a statement that the Balad heads cannot be permitted to incite against Israeli democracy and act against it."

Meretz MK Zahava Gal-On slammed Labor and Kadima for backing the disqualification, saying the parties were "conducting their election campaign not only on the backs of the Palestinians in Gaza, but also on the backs of the Israeli-Arabs. This is cheap politics."

The HaBayit HaYehudi party responded to the election committee's decision by saying, "We hope that the High Court justices have learned the lessons from the Bishara episode and won't overturn the election committee's decision because this will aid Hamas and Hizbullah open a branch in the Knesset," said the party.

The Yesha rabbinical council praised the decision, saying, "The parties are a fifth column in the State of Israel." The council also said that disqualifying the parties is not sufficient and that "the right to vote must be denied to all those supporting terror against the Jewish people."

Sharon Roffe-Ofir, Efrat Weiss, and Kobi Nahshoni contributed to this report


Mazuz considering indicting Balad MK for Syria visit

AG may charge Said Naffa with visiting enemy state, contacting a foreign agent, in light of unauthorized visit to Damascus in September 2007. Decision pends hearing; Naffa claims political persecution
Aviad Glickman

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz informed Knesset Member Said Naffa (Balad) that his 2007 visit to Syria may result in a criminal indictment. The decision is pending a hearing.

Naffa was told Sunday that he may face charges of contacting a foreign agent, aiding a visit to an enemy state and visiting an enemy state.


MK Naffa claims political persecution over Syria visits / Sharon Roffe-Ofir

Balad MK says talks with Syria prove continuing police investigations of his visits to Damascus are politically motivated, adds probes will not hinder his future visits to Syria
Full story

The Balad MK told Ynet that Mazuz's decision was nothing but political persecution: "I helped Druze clergymen exercise their legitimate right to visit the holy places (in Syria). I guess it's still a taboo as far as the government is concerned."

Naffa visited Syria in September of 2007, and according to suspicions met with Talal Naji – deputy secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), as well as with Hamas Politburo Chief Khaled Mashaal. He is also suspected of illegally aiding 300 people obtain permits to enter Syria.

Naffa denied having met Naji or Mashaal while in Syria, saying that "the accusation is an outright lie. If I wanted to meet them I would have done so in public. The entire visit has been documented and no such meeting took place."

He maintained that the entire case was motivated by political persecution; and sources within his camp said that the State is deliberately "targeting" members of the Druze community.

Mazuz's decision was reportedly made after consultations with State Prosecutor Moshe Lador, the State Prosecutor's Office, the police and other relevant law enforcement officials.

The final decision on whether or not to indict Naffa is pending a judicial hearing, in which the Knesset member would be able to present his case to Mazuz.

Naffa, who is one of the candidates in the Balad Party's primaries, which will be held later this week, said Mazuz's announcement had no bearing on his political plans: "If elected, I'll be a part of the party's Knesset roster. I'll make the decision about the hearing in the next few days," he said.

Meanwhile, the Attorney General's Office announced Sunday that it would be closing the cases against MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) and Balad MKs Wasil Taha and Jamal Zahalka, who were investigated for trips to Lebanon and Syria in 2005 and 2006.

Mazuz noted that unlike Naffa, Tibi, Wasil and Zahalka were investigated only for traveling without a permit, adding that given the time passed, indictments were unwarranted, but nevertheless, their matter would be turned over to the Knesset's Ethics Committee.

Sharon Roffe-Ofir contributed to this report


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