Judges Reinstate Zoabi, Marzel

YERUSHALAYIM -

The Israeli High Court overruled on Wednesday a Central Elections Committee decision to disqualify two extremist candidates from running in the March 17 elections.

MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) and Yachad candidate Baruch Marzel were permitted to run by a vote of 8-1, the second time the two have won a High Court appeal after a prior ban, as happened in 2013.

Zoabi’s lawyer Hassan Jabareen argued that the fact that “there is a large consensus in the Knesset to disqualify Zoabi” is irrelevant, and claimed that accusations of incitement to violence by her are not backed by evidence.

The judges took pains to make clear that their reinstatement of Zoabi should not be construed as an endorsement of any kind. Deputy Supreme Court President Elyakim Rubinstein expressed outrage at some of her statements, and pressed the prosecutors to furnish an instance that would justify disqualification.

Justice Hanan Melcer also noted Zoabi’s visit to Qatar during Operation Protective Edge, though Jabareen defended the visit on the grounds that Qatar is not defined as an enemy state and has trade with Israel.

Yoav Mani, arguing on behalf of Yisrael Beitenu, which petitioned the committee to disqualify Zoabi, said that the court had set an unachievable standard, and asked, “When do you decide enough is enough? Don’t say I’m against Zoabi’s views because of what she’ll do — say you’re against them because her views are against who we are!”

After disposing of the Zoabi case, the court took up that of Baruch Marzel.

Marzel’s lawyer, Itamar Ben-Gvir, said that the anti-Arab statements attributed to him are inaccurate, taken out of context and that in some cases, “he didn’t say them at all!”

“Even if Marzel said ‘Kahane was right,’ that would not even be close” to violating the election law standard for disqualification, Ben-Gvir said, adding that his client had moderated his views over the years since his involvement in Kach.

Ben-Gvir explained that statements interpreted as anti-Arab were actually just an expression of Marzel’s not believing coexistence was a viable approach.

Despite skepticism on the part of the judges, they agreed to reinstate his candidacy as well.