Israel to Ban Arab Parties

Via Steve Benen, it appears that Israel’s Central Election Committee has banned Arab parties from running in the next parliamentary elections.

Israel on Monday banned Arab political parties from running in next month’s parliamentary elections, drawing accusations of racism by an Arab lawmaker who said he would challenge the decision in the country’s Supreme Court.

The ruling by parliament’s Central Election Committee reflected the heightened tensions between Israel’s Jewish majority and Arab minority caused by Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip. Arabs have held a series of demonstrations against the offensive.

Parliament spokesman Giora Pordes said the election committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of the motion, accusing the country’s Arab parties of incitement, supporting terrorist groups and refusing to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Arab lawmakers have traveled to some of Israel’s staunchest enemies, including Lebanon and Syria.

I really can’t think of a single good reason for this. For one, in a democratic government, no party should be banned from running for office. Second, singling out and removing Arab participation from the government is only going to serve to isolate and radicalize those portions of the population that support those parties. Third, this move sends the message that Israel is unwilling to integrate Arabs into its governance, which makes any settlement with the Palestinians less likely. Finally, it’s going to truly piss off a lot of people in Egypt and Jordan, and accordingly make it harder for those governments to work with Israel.

In other words, this action by the Central Election Committee manages to be simultaneously immoral, stupid, and impractical. That’s impressive even by government standards.

(cross-posted to Heretical Ideas)

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Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.


  1. Brett says:

    The problem was that they banned the parties. They should have just censured the particular Arab MPs in question who visited Syria.

  2. Jay Tea says:

    Lawrence Simon has a different take on the matter. He quotes the actual language used:

    he petition to disqualify the lists, filed last Thursday by Israel Beiteinu and the National Union, is based on section 7A of the Basic Law: The Knesset, under which ‘a candidates’ list shall not participate in elections to the Knesset if its objectives or actions, expressly or by implication, include one of the following: (1) negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state; (2) incitement to racism; (3) support of an armed struggle against Israel by supporting an enemy state or a terrorist organization.

    Apparently all the banned groups have done all three at various times.

    Simon also brings up the similar move against the Kahanists’ party, Kach, for similar (if opposite) reasons.


  3. Alex Knapp says:


    I don’t see how this makes it any better. The terms are broad and vague and the ability to use “by implication” pretty much means anything goes. Under these terms, a list could be removed from election if it simply called for a ceasefire in Gaza since “by implication” some idiot politician can claim that that policy “supports Hamas.”

  4. Franklin says:

    It might have been more productive to make a deal out of this. Trade land for representation; then ship ’em out to their new country. Overly simplistic? Absolutely!

  5. If it is as you describe then I agree it is dumb and shortsighted. But did Israel ban Arab parties or just some parties that violated this criteria who happened to be Arab? There is a difference. The former is racist, the latter is just debatable policy.

    Oh, and any word on how Jewish political parties are doing in Arab countries?

  6. Michael says:

    Oh, and any word on how Jewish political parties are doing in Arab countries?

    They’re doing just as well as they are doing in any Western country.

  7. tom p says:

    so much for the “only true democracy in the ME”….