Jerusalem – As voters in Israel head to the polls to choose the next party to lead the 21st Knesset, some 1,200 body cameras have reportedly been placed in polling sites in Palestinian neighbourhoods, prompting a police investigation.
Israel‘s Central Elections Committee (CEC) chairman Judge Hanan Melcer filed a complaint to the Israel Police on Tuesday after the Likud party reportedly provided right-wing activists with 1,200 body cameras to monitor polling stations located in Palestinian-populated localities, Israeli media reported.
Incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is running against Benny Gantz – a former army chief of staff, responded to the police investigation saying there should be cameras everywhere to “ensure a fair vote”.
The Hadash-Ta’al list, an alliance of two Arab parties, stated on Twitter that it had filed an urgent complaint to the CEC, demanding to immediately remove the illegally installed cameras.
“Netanyahu does not want the Arab public to vote, but we will rush to the polls and topple the government,” Hadash-Ta’al wrote on Twitter.
The comment alludes to Netanyahu’s statement on election day in 2015, urging his supporters to vote as “Arab” voters are heading to the polls in droves” and could topple his right-wing government.
הגשנו עכשיו תלונה דחופה לוועדת הבחירות בדרישה לעצור את הניסיונות הלא-חוקיים של פעילי הליכוד להטמין מכשירי הקלטה ומצלמות נסתרות בקלפיות ביישובים הערביים. נתניהו לא רוצה שהציבור הערבי יצביע, אבל אנחנו ננהר לקלפיות ונפיל את הממשלה. pic.twitter.com/tZhZeGzVJf
— תנועת חד''ש (@Hadash_org) April 9, 2019
TRANSLATION: We have now submitted an urgent complaint to the election committee demanding to halt the illegal attempts of Likud operatives to plant recording devices and hidden cameras in the polling stations in the Arab communities. Netanyahu does not want the Arab public to vote, but we will rush to the polls and topple the government.
Police have since confiscated the cameras after the CEC’s legal counsel said that officials cannot film voters nor the voting process.
A source told Haaretz newspaper that “the move was aimed to preserve the purity of the election and to assure that [Arab political alliance] Ra’am-Balad won’t pass the electoral threshold through falsifications.”
In a statement, the Haifa-based Mossawa Centre, The Advocacy Centre for Arab citizens in Israel, condemned what it called the “continued use of underhanded and illegal tactics by the Likud party”.
“By infringing on the basic political rights of Arabs who vote in the Israeli elections today, the Likud party continues to ensue suspicion and fear of Arabs as an extreme right-wing political strategy,” the statement read.
Mesad Jarban, 32, from the coastal town of Jisr al-Zarqa, said that despite the reports of right-wing activists attempting to disrupt polling stations in Palestinian communities, he felt it was important to still vote for one of the Arab parties in the election.
“I vote to support the Arab position, even though I don’t really like the candidates. But I’m an Arab and I’d like to have a voice or someone to represent us in the Knesset,” Jarban said.
Jafar Farah, director of Mossawa, told Al Jazeera that Netanyahu and his party continue to incite against the Arab community and sew divisions between Arabs and Jews in order to remain in power.
Farah noted that on Tuesday, Netanyahu posted a digitally altered image on Twitter showing Israeli politicians and Arab candidates standing alongside each other and urged voters to support Likud to prevent such a reality.