Israel bans two Arab political parties

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Israel's Central Election Committee voted yesterday to disqualify two Arab political parties from running in the country's general elections scheduled for February 10th. The committee voted 26–3 to disqualify the Arab political party Balad, and 21–3 with eight abstentions to disqualify an alliance of parties United Arab List and Ta'al. The UAL-Ta'al is sometimes also called Ra'am Ta'al.

Ahmed Tibi has been a legislator in Israel's Knesset since 1999

A "stormy" debate was initiated by petitions from rival parties that accuse UAL-Ta'al and Balad of undermining Israel and supporting violence against it. Arab committee members including Ahmed Tibi, leader of UAL-Ta'al, walked out of the committee before the vote.

Tibi condemned the ruling saying, "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."

Arabs constitute one fifth of the population in Israel but only have twelve of 120 parliamentary seats. Arabs say that they face daily discrimination. Other parties associated with the Arab-Israeli minority, such as Hadash, are not affected by the committee's decision.

Israel's High Court of Justice reversed a similar attempt to ban Balad in 2003, and has until Friday to rule on yesterday's votes.