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Israel court postpones ruling on disqualification of Palestinian MP

Yazbak denounces 'racist atmosphere and incitement' against Palestinian citizens of Israel and their political representatives ahead of elections
Heba Yazbak, a Palestinian member of the Balad party, speaks during a campaign rally for the Joint List in Kafr Yasif in northern Israel, in August 2019 (AFP)

The Israeli Supreme Court postponed on Wednesday its decision regarding whether MP Heba Yazbak, a member of the Arab Joint List political coalition, should be disqualified from running in legislative elections on 2 March.

The court will hold another hearing on Sunday to issue a decision.

Right-wing parties Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu and Jewish Power called for the Central Elections Committee (CEC) last month to ban Yazbak's candidacy, claiming that she wrote a Facebook post in 2016 eulogising Lebanese Hezbollah member Samir al-Kuntar as a "martyr fighter" and arguing that she supported "terrorism".

The CEC issued a decision last week to ban Yazbak - in a move that has been rejected by leaders of the Palestinian community in Israel.

“These claims are unacceptable… what Heba Yazbak said was in harmony with the legitimate Palestinian struggle against occupation and in harmony with international laws,” Jamal Zahalka, a former Knesset member and leader of the Balad party until 2019, told Middle East Eye.

Zahalka said that Palestinian Knesset members’ position on the extrajudicial assassinations of Palestinian or Arab leaders was clear.

“Kuntar was killed by Israel, as were Bassel al-Araj and Dalal Mughrabi, whose names were brought during today’s trial as an attempt to pin down Israeli parties' claims against Yazbak,” Zahalka said.

Kuntar fought in the ranks of the Palestine Liberation Front and was arrested by Israel in 1979. Then aged 16, he was convicted of killing two Israeli family members and a policeman. 

Kuntar spent 29 years in prison before being released in 2008. He was assassinated in Damascus in 2015 after he joined the Hezbollah movement.

Araj and Mughrabi were two prominent Palestinian resistance figures who were killed in 2017 and 1978 respectively.

In the past, the CEC disqualified two other Palestinian citizens of Israel - MPs Azmi Bishara and Haneen Zoabi - from running in Israeli elections on two separate occasions. However, in both cases, the Supreme Court overturned the committee's decision.

Yazbak told local media that Palestinian political leaders inside Israel were running for election amid a “racist atmosphere and incitement against Arab citizens and against the Joint List”.

However, she told news outlet Arab48 that “we get our legitimacy from our people and our electoral base, not from the [Israeli] right-wing forces that act out of political revenge and of their inability to face our just political and social project".

“We hope that the Israeli Supreme Court will make its decision based on legal parameters and will not be subject to the frenzied campaign of incitement launched by various Israeli parties against Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel and their political representatives,” Hassan Jabareen, the head of the Adalah legal centre for Palestinian citizens of Israel and Yazbak's lawyer, said in a statement.