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Political discrimination in "democratic Israel"

Haneen Zoabi's disqualification from standing as a candidate in Israel's general election in January has failed to stir controversy within the Western world, keen as it is to ensure the portrayal of Israel as "the only democracy in the Middle East". Yet the decision to disqualify the elected Knesset Member (MK) is a reflection of the racist, right-wing policy incorporated in Article 7A of Israel's 'Basic Law'.

Prevention of participation and disqualification of a party or a candidate can occur if it is found that actions "(i) deny the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State; (ii) incite to racism; or (iii)[offer] support of armed struggle, of an enemy state or of a terrorist organisation against the State of Israel."

While the official reason for Zoabi's disqualification was cited as her participation in the Gaza Flotilla on board the Mavi Marmara in May 2010, the action taken is simply another manifestation of a more significant ongoing corrosion of Palestinians' political rights. Presenting the 11,000 signature petition, Likud's right-wing Danny Danon MK stated that Zoabi's place is in jail and that "democracy must have its limits". According to Article 7A, Zoabi's presence on board the Mavi Marmara constituted an act against the State of Israel. Michael Ben-Ari, another right-wing MK, declared the necessity for "our kids to be able to live in a normal Jewish state, not one in which 30 Zoabis serve in the Knesset." Ben-Ari is well known for his violent discourse against Palestinians; only a few weeks ago he urged the Israeli military to ignore diplomacy on the pretext that "there are no innocents in Gaza".

Looking at Article 7A and the language of vilification used by Israeli parliamentarians with regard to Palestinians, it seems as if the ambiguous provision serves to shift the paradigm of the "terrorist" upon indigenous Palestinians. However, a reversal of the category of people at whom this law is directed brings about coherent reasoning. Denial of the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state is actually a very logical stance to take, considering that Israel does its utmost to exclude the minority under its brutal occupation. Israeli discourse is replete with racist remarks against Palestinians, with some statements serving as a prelude to committing war crimes. The State of Israel has acted as a terror agent against the Palestinian population for decades, depriving them of adequate housing, health, education, land, resources, culture and, most importantly, citizenship.

If Zoabi's party, NDA-Balad, boycotts the Israeli general election, it would be exercising a political right against a move perceived as political persecution of Palestinian representation. However, if Balad does exclude itself from the electoral process, Palestinian voters face an even more limited choice of candidates, resulting in further dispossession of rights which fails to register as a form of oppression as far as Western leaders are concerned.

Israel's deliberate marginalisation of indigenous Palestinians is chastised in the form of reparations by the United Nations, in order to avoid a crucial international discussion of colonial and apartheid practices, as well as the global community's responsibility for allowing the Israeli occupation to continue with impunity.

Western governments' enchantment with Israel's parody of democracy betrays their prime concern for selfish political interests and economic motives over and above international humanitarian law. Haneen Zoabi's election ban, which stifles a much-needed Palestinian voice in parliament, does not register as a legitimate concern for the majority who now form a global dictatorship which uses and abuses democracy for its own, very un-democratic, objectives.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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