Haaretz (Editorial)
December 12, 2012 - 1:00am

It's a recurring pre-election ritual: The Central Elections Committee invalidates the candidacies of Arab parties and candidates, and the Supreme Court voids the disqualifications. Since 1965, not a single Arab party has been disqualified from running for the Knesset.

This time, the CEC is being asked to invalidate the Balad and the United Arab List-Ta'al parties, as well as to ban Balad MK Hanin Zuabi from running. It would behoove the CEC to resist disqualifying anyone and not force the High Court to intervene.

The right to elect and be elected is basic to democracy and it must be carefully preserved. Disqualifying parties that represent the Arab public would be a serious blow to democracy and broadcast a message of exclusion to this population.

In the past, the High Court allowed the Kach party to be disqualified, but that was justified because the list threatened the essence of the democratic regime, and because by preaching racism it contradicted basic democratic values.

The concept of "defensive democracy" is justified when a party wants to use the democratic process to threaten democracy itself. That's why many countries have restrictions on anti-democratic parties. But in the Israeli discourse, this concept has been distorted, and it is being used to invalidate parties that don't threaten democracy but are perceived as a threat to the Jewish nature of the state.

While the Basic Law on the Knesset includes a ban on the participation of parties that reject the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, the courts have justifiably ruled that this clause must be invoked with the greatest possible restraint. It would be worth amending the clause to allow the disqualification only of parties that reject the existence of the state and its democratic regime.

The Basic Law on the Knesset also contains a clause that forbids a list to stand for election if it supports the armed struggle against Israel. It's understood that a sovereign state cannot give legitimacy to those who wish to harm its citizens. With that, this clause should not be utilized to categorically disqualify Arab candidates who oppose the occupation. There's something wrong with parties that support continuing the occupation, which denies and neuters democracy, asking to disqualify lists and candidates because they oppose the occupation.


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