Palestinians in Knesset decry call to ban Arab party

Former Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman proposes banning an influential Arab party from the parliament.

File photo of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Moscow
Israel's former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has targeted the Balad party several times in the past [File: Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters]

Palestinian lawmakers in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, have denounced a parliamentarian’s campaign to ban an influential Arab party from the legislative process. 

In a video posted on his on Facebook, former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu (Israel is Our Home) party, called on Israelis to support a new bill that will bar the Balad party from the Knesset. 

Balad is one of four parties in the Joint List, an electoral coalition whose primary constituency comes from the minority of Palestinians who carry Israeli citizenship and live in cities, towns and villages across the country. 

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“Together, we will kick terror supporters out of the Knesset,” Lieberman said in the video. 

As he spoke, he held a sign that read “Kick Hanin Zoabi out of the Knesset – for good!”

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“So I ask you, the public, anyone who cares about the State of Israel and thinks these terror supporters do not belong in the Knesset – to like, share and demand ministers and MKs from the Likud, Bayit Yehudi, Kulanu, Shas and United Torah Judaism to support the bill,” he said, referring to several right-wing Israeli parties. 

If passed, Lieberman’s bill would also strip Israel’s High Court of Justice the power to overturn the Central Electoral Commission’s decisions. 

In the past, the commission has disqualified Zoabi, who is a senior member of Balad, from running in the elections, but the High Court later reversed the decision. 

‘Cheap political points’

In a statement released on Wednesday, Zoabi called Lieberman “a fascist” who wants “to gain cheap political points”. 

Zoabi said that Lieberman’s bill “will not deter me or move me from my struggle for the values in which I believe: justice, equality, freedom and democracy. I will continue to struggle for my people and their just struggle”. 

Hanin Zoabi has vowed to continue her efforts to improve the lives of Palestinians in Israel from within the Knesset [File: Baz Ratner/Reuters]
Hanin Zoabi has vowed to continue her efforts to improve the lives of Palestinians in Israel from within the Knesset [File: Baz Ratner/Reuters]

Jamal Zahalka, a Knesset member and leader of the Balad party, dismissed the bill. “There is an anti-democratic and racist atmosphere in Israel,” he told Al Jazeera, accusing Lieberman of “attempting to change the subject” from a corruption scandal that rocked Lieberman’s party at the beginning of the year. 

Made up of Muslims, Christians and Druze, Palestinian citizens of Israel number an estimated 1.7 million people. According to the Adalah Legal Centre, there are more than 50 discriminatory laws that muzzle their political expression and limit their access to state resources. 

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“This is not the first time Lieberman has tried to get cheap publicity by inciting the Israeli public against Palestinian citizens of Israel,” he said. “He has a long history of targeting Balad as a party and all Palestinians.” 

Zahalka alluded to the Israeli parliamentary elections in March, when Lieberman called for “disloyal” Palestinian citizens of Israel to be beheaded. “Those who are against us, there’s nothing to be done – we need to pick up an ax and cut off his head,” the then foreign minister said at the time. 

“If Israel’s incitement laws were implemented, [Lieberman] would be in jail,” Zahalka added. 

Follow Patrick Strickland on Twitter: @P_Strickland_

Source: Al Jazeera