High Court Overturns Election Committee Ruling, Paves Way for Arab Labor Candidate

YERUSHALAYIM -
A man casts his votes at a Labor party polling station in Tel Aviv on Jan. 24. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The High Court on Sunday overturned a ruling by the Central Election Committee that banned Ibtisam Mara’ana, No. 7 on Labor’s Knesset slate, from vying in the March 23 election.

Mara’ana, an Arab Israeli filmmaker from Jaffa, has made highly controversial anti-Zionist statements. She has also faced criticism for slamming the IDF, and over her public refusal to observe the two-minute siren on Memorial Day – for which she later apologized on social media.

Her nomination on Labor’s Knesset list sparked a public uproar, prompting the Otzma Yehudit party to petition the Central Elections Committee to have her disqualified, which the committee backed.

The Labor party welcomed the decision, saying, “The High Court has spoken. Ibtisam Mara’ana has expressed remorse over the statement she made over a decade ago.”

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit had also opposed banning Mara’ana from vying in the elections, saying that her past statements, controversial as they were, did not merit the move.

“While her behavior deserves contempt, it does not negate Israel’s right to exist,” Chief Justice Esther Hayut wrote. Justice Daphne Barak-Erez added, “Vying in the elections is not a ‘prize’ afforded only to model citizens or to those whose opinions conform to others.”

As expected, the court’s decision enraged right-wing parties.

“The Supreme Court’s decision is outrageous and disgraceful,” Yamina said in a statement. “The only thing it proves is that the judiciary is in need of comprehensive reforms.”

A statement by the Religious Zionist Party said, “The Supreme Court again shows contempt for the legislator, ignores the letter of the law and sides with the enemies of the Israeli public.

“After repeatedly banning right-wing candidates over statements for which they, too, expressed remorse, the court decided to support a candidate who denies Israel’s right to exist, scorns the memory of the Holocaust, and aspires for the annihilation of Israeli cities, all based on a halfhearted apology.”

Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin said, “The High Court has once again failed to defend the most basic values of the State of Israel.”