In a vote held on Wednesday, January 29, the Knesset’s Central Elections Committee officially disqualified Joint List MK Heba Yazbak (Balad) from running in the March 2 elections. The vote was 27 for the disqualification and 7 against.
Almost all of the Knesset’s Zionist and Ultraorthodox lawmakers united behind the efforts to ban Yazbak, including the centrist Blue &White party and Labor-Gasher, part of the broader Labor-Gesher-Meretz alliance. Only the Joint List and Meretz voted against the move.
Next week, Israel’s Supreme Court will hear the lawmaker’s appeal against the Central Elections Committee’s decision. It seems likely that the court will revoke Yazbak’s disqualification, adopting Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s position that she should not be barred from participating in the elections.
Yazbak said the charges against her as “absurd and racist”, describing the process as an attack on Arab lawmakers. Addressing the committee, she said, “The only thing connected to violence I’ve dealt with in my life is the fight against violence. I have never called for the use of violence. Nor did I intend to praise the use of violence,” she said, referring to the Facebook posts which became the basis of the motion to disqualify her from the elections.
Slamming the committee as a “blatant political body,” Yazbak called the disqualification “an attempt to prevent Arab members of Knesset from having one of the most fundamental rights — the right to vote and be elected.” “Dark forces in the country are twisting a woman who has struggled all her life for the values of life, justice and peace into a terrorist supporter, only because it serves their political vision and electoral purpose. But this monster created by the right just doesn’t exist,” she said.
At the same time, Yazbak stressed that she would “not remain silent in the struggle for justice and peace and all attempts to silence true political debate will not succeed.” “Even if the authentic Palestinian narrative is trampled on, silenced and made illegitimate by most politicians for years, it will not be erased or forgotten. The mere fact that the discourse is trampled does not mean that it does not exist,” she said.
Later on Wednesday, the Central Elections Committee, made up of representatives from all of the current factions in the Knesset. rejected by a vote of 18 to 4 the petition filed by the far-right and racist Otzma Yehudit party demanding that the entire Joint List be disqualified from running in the March 2 elections because it allegedly supports terrorism. MKs from the far-right Likud party and racist Yisrael Beytenu who are members of the committee voted in favor of barring the Joint List from running; 18 colleagues rejected the petition. In last September’s election the Joint List won 13 seats in the Knesset.