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Israeli Supreme Court overturns election ban on Haneen Zoabi

Jewish far-right activist accused of racism will also be allowed to run on 17 March
Haneen Zoabi will be allowed to run after Supreme Court rejected earlier CEC ban (AFP)

The Israeli Supreme Court has quashed an election ban imposed on Palestinian MP Haneen Zoabi, overturning last week’s decision by the Central Elections Committee (CEC).

The court’s decision, announced on Wednesday, is final and means that Zoabi - one of the most prominent Arab politicians in Israel - will be allowed to stand, despite widespread criticism that she allegedly supported terrorist groups and was deemed too “hostile to the Jewish state”. The reasons for the court's rejection of the CEC ruling will not be made public until a later date. 

A far-right Jewish activist, Baruch Marzel, who was barred for alleged racism, will also be allowed to stand for the upcoming 17 March vote, the court ruled.

"The court viewed my remarks and actions as acts included in the freedom of speech and within the legal framework,” Zoabi said following the court's decision. “I hope this ruling opens a door for my comments to be listened to as I say them and not to the fraudulent slander. The court exposed the massive gap between what is attributed to me to what I actually say."

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Jewish Home party had originally submitted a 50-page dossier to the CEC claiming that Zoabi belonged “with the terrorists from Hamas”. Zoabi firmly denied the allegations, telling MEE last week that the Jewish parties were creating a “false image” and that some of the statements levied against her had been mistranslated.  

While Zoabi’s ban was backed by all the major parties that dominate the CEC, the court was expected to overturn the committee decision. 

The CEC had previously barred Zoabi from standing in 2013, but that was quickly nullified by the court.

Arab-Israeli legal rights group Adalah said the court's overturning of the Zoabi ban by a large majority demonstrated the "improper motives" of the CEC, which it said "portrays Arab (MPs) as supporters of terrorism”.

CEC decisions "are not only harming Arab political parties and candidates, but are also violating the basic rights of Arab citizens of Israel, namely their rights to political participation, freedom of expression, equality and dignity," the statement added.

Marzel’s lawyers, however, said that the reports of anti-migrant and anti-Arab statements used against him were either never made or were taken out of context.

Marzel said after the ruling: "It has been proven there is no racism in my positions. This was the left trying to silence me. Leftwing people who objected to Zoabi's disqualification supported my own disqualification. Anyone who thinks Zoabi is okay should go with her, those in favour of Israel's Torah should go with us.”

Last month, Israel's four main parties that represent Palestinian citizens of Israel announced plans to fight the March election as a single block for the first time in Israel’s history. Zoabi is seventh on a united list, which opinion polls suggest could win between 10 and 13 seats in the 120-member Knesset.

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