Not Sure What to Say or Think

A shocking development.

From the AP

The Central Elections Committee on Monday banned Arab political parties from running in next month’s parliamentary elections, drawing accusations of racism by an Arab lawmaker who said he would challenge the decision in the country’s Supreme Court.

The ruling, made by the body that oversees the elections, reflected the heightened tensions between Israel’s Jewish majority and Arab minority caused by Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip. Israeli Arabs have held a series of demonstrations against the offensive.

Knesset spokesman Giora Pordes said the election committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of the motion, accusing the country’s Arab parties of incitement, supporting terrorist groups and refusing to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Arab lawmakers have traveled to countries listed among Israel’s staunchest enemies, including Lebanon and Syria. The 37-member committee is composed of representatives from Israel’s major political parties. The measure was proposed by two ultranationalist parties but received widespread support.

The decision does not affect Arab lawmakers in predominantly Jewish parties or the country’s communist party, which has a mixed list of Arab and Jewish candidates. Roughly one-fifth of Israel’s 7 million citizens are Arabs. Israeli Arabs enjoy full citizenship rights, but have suffered from discrimination and poverty for decades.

Pordes, the parliament spokesman, said the last party to be banned was the late Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Kach Party, a list from the 1980s that advocated the expulsion of Arabs from Israel.

Late Update: It’s worth noting that the Israeli Supreme Court tends to be considerably more sane on these issues. So there’s some hope that they may overrule this.

Later Update: I thought I’d add a few more thoughts and details on this development, especially for those who aren’t that familiar with Israel’s internal politics. First, Israel has fairly expansive laws for banning political parties. As the article notes, the last one banned was a radical Jewish party that advocated expelling Israel’s Arab population. It’s also true that many Israeli-Arabs vote for the big mainstream zionist parties or non-Zionist parties that have both Arab and Jewish voters, like the Communist party. So this is not banning Arabs from voting but outlawing the two main Arab political parties. But with all that said, this still strikes me as an ugly, defining watershed for Israeli democracy. I’ll be curious to see more details on what the reasoning or, more likely, what the rationales were behind this decision.

Looking for Silver Linings Update: As this article notes, there’s a history of political stunts like this, which have been subsequently overturned by the Israeli Supreme Court. So it seems like there’s a very good chance this won’t stand. Still, not sure that makes it much better.