Israel bans Arabs from contesting election Tue, 13 Jan 2009 09:03:29 GMT
Israeli election authorities have banned two of the three main Arab political parties from running in next month’s general elections.
A Central Election Committee threw its weight behind a motion filed by two right-wing parties against the United Arab List-Ta’al (UAL-Ta’al) and the National Democratic Assembly — also known as Balad.
The motion — proposed by the National Union and Israel Beiteinu, two ultra-nationalist parties — accused the two Arab political parties of "not recognizing Israel’s right to exist" along with "incitement and supporting terrorist groups".
Arabs make up about a fifth of Israel's seven million population and together they hold seven of 120 seats in the Israeli parliament — Knesset.
After the 30-member Israeli panel voted to disqualify the Arab parties, heads of the two rival parties, Ahmed Tibi and Jamal Zahalka, condemned their decision.
"It was a political trial led by a group of fascists and racists who are willing to see the Knesset without Arabs and want to see the country without Arabs," Tibi said.
"If the members of the panel had weapons, they would have shot us in the head," he added.
The disqualifications came after a recent Knesset session, during which Arab lawmakers condemned the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip.
"As a humane person, I oppose targeting civilians wherever they are. Naturally, however, every time an Arab is injured it hurts me more because we are members of the same nation," Tibi said at the Knesset session.
Later, leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party Avigdor Lieberman described the Arab parliamentarians as a "fifth column" — a term used to describe groups which work secretly to undermine a nation.
The Israeli high court has until Friday to rule on the decision — the deadline for submitting Knesset lists for the February 10 elections.
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