The EMHRN condemns the decision of the Israeli Central Elections Committee (CEC) to disqualify Member of Knesset (MK) Haneen Zoabi - the only Palestinian Arab woman elected on a party list representing the Palestinian minority in Israel - from running in the upcoming parliamentary elections on 22 January 2013.
By approving the disqualification motion submitted by the ruling Likud party, the CEC not only violates the right of MK Zoabi to stand for election, but also risks the disenfranchisement of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, who would be denied their constitutional right to elect their representatives.
On 19 December 2012, the CEC - a body comprised of political party representatives from the Knesset and headed by a Supreme Court justice – voted to disqualify MK Zoabi from the upcoming Knesset elections by a majority vote of 19-9, with one abstention.
The disqualification motion is based on two grounds: that MK Zoabi “denies the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state” as she and her political party – The National Democratic Assembly-Balad - call for a “state for all its citizens”, and MK Zoabi’s participation in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in May 2010, which allegedly amounts “supporting terror”.
This motion disregards previous decisions of the Israeli Supreme Court regarding the former, and the Attorney General’s decision not to indict MK Zoabi for her participation on the Flotilla.
Further, the Israeli Turkel Committee, which was mandated to investigate the flotilla incident, established that MK Zoabi was not involved in any clashes with Israeli soldiers.
The CEC's decision to disqualify MK Zoabi is not final; it requires the approval of the Israeli Supreme Court, which will hold a special hearing next week.
The disqualification motion comes in a context of a growing anti-Arab sentiment in the Jewish Israeli public.
This move can also be seen as a direct continuation of escalating measures, including 20 discriminatory and/or racist laws enacted by the Netanyahu-Lieberman government against Israel's Arab-Palestinian citizens and their elected representatives in the last four years.
The representatives of minority groups must enjoy full access to participation in the political sphere.
It is not acceptable for the majority to exclude minority representatives from the parliamentary process nor, in the case of MK Zoabi, is there any legal basis to do so.
The right to vote and to stand for election, free of discrimination, is guaranteed to Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel in human rights treaties ratified by Israel, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).
According to the European Commission, 'Parliament is the pre-eminent forum for national debate.
It is crucial therefore that all perspectives are properly represented” (European Commission, Engaging and Supporting Parliaments Worldwide: Strategies and Methodologies for EC Action in Support to Parliaments, 2010).
Prior to the Supreme Court hearing, it is critical that the EU, including its Member States and European and national Parliamentarians, publicly denounce the disqualification of MK Haneen Zoabi, and urge Israel to ensure full respect for the right of Palestinian citizens of Israel to meaningful and effective political participation.