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Thursday, March 14, 2019

Israeli Elections: Hands Off Hadash candidates!

Ayman Odeh (Hadash) and Ahmad Tibi (Ta'al Party).
Less than a month before the April 9th General Elections in Israel, the far-right government of Benjamin Netanyahu tries to put obstacles to the candidacies of Hadash-Ta'al joint list. 

It is characteristic that the chairman of the far-right Yisrael Beytenu Party, Avigdor Lieberman, submitted a petition to the Central Elections Committee, in order to ban a certain candidate from running in the elections. 

According to a report published on the site of the Communist Party of Israel (Maki)the Knesset’s Central Election Committee voted on Wednesday, March 6, to disqualify from participating in the upcoming April 9 general elections the combined Arab slate of Balad-United Arab List. The report continues with the following: While the committee approved the participation of the Hadash-Ta’al ticket in the elections, it did however decide to bar one candidate from this alliance from running, leading Communist activist Dr. Ofer Cassif who was positioned in the fifth place for this list. In doing so the committee rejected the opinion of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit who opposed disqualifying any of the lists or candidates submitted by the various political parties last month.

Racists Michael Ben Ari and Itamar Ben-Gvir from the Kahanist, far-right Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Strength) party, who the committee approved to run in the election earlier Wednesday, petitioned against both the Balad-United Arab List and the Hadash-Ta’al. Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman condemned the committee’s decision: “Two racists who seek to implement the doctrine of Kahane – who was himself denounced and removed from the parliamentary arena – make a comeback under the sponsorship of Netanyahu and the blessings of the rest of the right.” Touma-Sliman said it’s “a disgrace that those who call for transfer, deportation and murder get a stamp of approval that legitimizes their opinions – and that Israeli society can be forgiving towards and hear” such vile positions.
The Central Election Committee, made up of representatives from the parties of the 20th Knesset, voted on Wednesday night to ban Cassif by a vote of 15 for and 10 against. Three members from Shas and the ultra-orthodox United Torah Judaism abstained in the vote, while the representatives from Kulanu and Hatnua entirely absented themselves from the session.
In response to the vote disqualifying him, Cassif said that the decision proves “the committee is led by discriminatory and exclusionary politics. They do not adhere to democracy and the rule of law, but racism and hatred for the Arab-Palestinian national minority and for all democratic forces.”
A statement issued by the Hadash-Ta’al list following the Central Elections Committee’s decision to disqualify Cassif said: “It is both shameful and a disgrace that Kahanist thugs and the agitator Avigdor Lieberman are those who dictate the agenda of the Central Elections Committee. Cassif’s disqualification is yet another step in the curtailing of [Israel’s] democratic space and the silencing of any voice opposing a discriminatory and racist regime. Hadash-Ta’al will continue to present a clear voice for peace, equality and social justice. We are proud of Dr. Ofer Cassif. Opposing the occupation is not against the law.” MK Ayman Odeh, who leads the Hadash-Ta’al slate, denounced the barring of Cassif, saying it was an attempt to “silence those who oppose a discriminatory and racist regime.”
Offer Cassif: The Right-Wing Trying to Eliminate Jewish-Arab Cooperation
Dr. Ofer Cassif.
Communist candidate Dr. Ofer Cassif, today said he believes the decision to prohibit him from participating in the upcoming general election is fueled by the right-wing’s desire to eliminate Jewish-Arab cooperation. 

Speaking to Middle East Monitor, Cassif said the Central Elections Committee deliberately targeted him in its decision to bar him from contesting the upcoming election on April 9 because of the potential for Jewish-Arab cooperation that his candidacy represents. “Of course the main victims of the right-wing’s policy are the Palestinian citizens of Israel,” he explains, “but civil society, the media, the courts and academia are also coming under attack by the fanatic right-wing.”
Cassif continued: “For them [the committee] to rule a candidate like myself, or any other Jewish member in Hadash, out of the parliamentary and broader political game is in their interest. They want to fuel hatred and fear, especially of Jews for Palestinians. For me this is the real issue, because it is of course extremely dangerous.”
Cassif also revealed that the decision was likely part of a several-year-long campaign against Hadash and its joint Jewish-Arab membership. Cassif cited a 2015 conversation between Yisrael Beiteinu’s David Rotem – at that time chair of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee – and a Hadash member, in which Rotem said that “Yisrael Beiteinu is much more concerned with parties that exemplify Jewish-Arab cooperation and less concerned about Arab lists. We want to eliminate political cooperation between Jews and Arabs.”
The fact that the racist head of Yisrael Beiteinu, former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, was the on who submitted the petition against Cassif seems to add weight to Cassif’s interpretation of his disqualification last Wednesday’s, March 6, by the Knesset’s Central Elections Committee. The decision to ban Cassif and the Ra’am-Balad Arab list was particularly significant given the fact that, only hours earlier, the same committee had voted in favor of allowing the leader of the ultra-right-wing Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit) party, Michael Ben Ari, to run.