Israel’s Supreme Court overturned on Sunday, March 17, the disqualifications of Dr. Ofer Cassif, a Communist candidate from the Hadash-Ta’al political alliance, and the entire Balad-Ra’am (United Arab List) bloc from running in the April 9 general elections. The nine justices also unanimously confirmed Hadash-Ta’al’s right to run in the elections, which was being appealed before the court following the Central Elections Committee’s rejection of a petition calling for Hadash-Ta’al’s disqualification. The court did on Sunday ban Kahanist leader Michael Ben Ari from participating in next month’s electoral contest.
Earlier this month, the Central Elections Committee disqualified Dr. Cassif and the Balad-United Arab List, in opposition to the expressed opinion of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit. That same day, a petition against Ben Ari, the chair of the far-right and racist Otzma Yehudit party, failed to pass the committee, thereby giving him the right to run in the elections.
The court’s decision to allow Cassif to run was made by an eight to one majority. Its decision to allow the running of Arab joint slate Balad-United Arab List was also made by an eight to one majority. The nine justices unanimously approved Hadash-Ta’al to run in the election.
Sunday’s decision sets a precedent, as it is the first time that a single candidate – as opposed to an entire list – is barred from running, since the Knesset enacted the law allowing the banning of a specific candidate in 2002. The court’s decision to ban Ben Ari is backed by the opinion of the Attorney General, who stated that he was in favor of disqualifying the former MK from running for the 21st Knesset on the grounds of his incessant incitement against Arabs and a significant mass of evidence to prove it.
Dr. Cassif, a lecturer in political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Hadash activist from 1988, said he was “happy justice has been served,” adding that this was a “shameful political attempt by the Kahanists sponsored by Netanyahu.” Cassif said that “despite the efforts to narrow the democratic space [of Israel] and silence voices opposing that discriminatory regime, I will continue to talk about ending the occupation and strive for peace and equality.”
Chairperson of the Hadash list MK Ayman Odeh said in response to Sunday’s decisions by the Supreme Court: “The attempt to silence Arab slates is a racist and abhorrent effort by those who are afraid of Arab-Jewish cooperation. They are so afraid of losing power that they are willing to lay a red carpet before those who call for the transfer of Arabs and for supporters of racial theories and violence.”