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DEMANDING DEMOCRACY
OreadDaily - 7 January 2003

[10 January 2003 Update from OD: "I meant to mention yesterday
(following Tuesday's OD article) that Israel's highest court overturned
the decision of the Central Election's Committee to block two Arab
candidates from running for the Israeli parliament."]

Demonstrations took place today outside the Israeli Supreme Court
organized by 40 Jewish and Arab organizations protesting the Central
Elections Committee's decisions to disqualify Arab candidates MKs
Ahmed Tibi and Azmi Bishara and his Balad list.  The Committee issued
the disqualifications because the two allegedly incited against the
State of Israel and identified with enemies of the state.  Other
activists demonstrating today  are calling on the court to overturn
the decision allowing former Kach leader Baruch Marzel to run on the
far-right Herut list.  Appeals relating to these decisions are being
heard today.

Bishara and Balad have become the leading advocates of national
rights for Israel's Palestinian minority and of the call for
transforming Israel from being a Jewish state into a state for all
its citizens. Less than three years ago, Bishara expressed such views
from the floor of the Knesset. Clearly, what was tolerated then to
the Israeli consensus is tolerable no more. Bishara charged that
party politics ruled the commission. "We never called or supported,
implicitly or explicitly, armed struggle in any form," he said. "I
have spoken of the rights of a people under occupation…. to resist
occupation." Bishara reportedly denied the accusations saying he
has "always opposed the suicide bombs" and believed "a united Arab
stand... will prevent war".   Attorneys representing Bishara and his
party are arguing that the evidence against him, which was based on
Shin Bet reports, is not supported by fact. They also argue that the
Shin Bet's involvement in the case is "very dangerous," saying the
government intelligence service should not be involved in a
democratic, civilian process."  Tibi, an adviser to Palestinian
leader Yasser Arafat before being elected to the Israeli parliament
in 1999, denied charges that he backed Palestinian violence. Tibi has
called the ruling a "black day" for Israeli democracy and said, "This
is the mark of Cain on the forehead of the Central Elections
Committee and the political system, which approves such an anti-
democratic racist reptile (Marzel) and wants to disqualify an
authentic representative of the Arab public." He also charged that
the CEC's judgment was not only about his national identification but
a ploy to remove any kind of political representation for Israel's
Palestinian minority. "We have been kicked out of the community and
delegitimised. We are being told we don't have the right to protest,
to hold a different opinion."

Baruch Marzel, a former Kach leader,  is well known Jewish
anti Arab extremist and past associate of Meir Kahane. Kach called
for the deportations of Arabs from Israel. Marvel says Kach no longer
exists and that he now accepts "the principles of democracy",
evidenced by his decision to join Israel's far-right Herut Party
(whose platform calls for "encouraging the emigration" of
Palestinians). The election committee's chairman, Justice Mishael
Cheshin disagreed with the Marzel decision saying, "An examination of
the material brought before us shows that Marzel is the leader or one
of the important leaders of Kach. There is absolutely no doubt Marzel
is [still] connected [to the movement] and ... working for the same
disgusting aims as in the past."

Sources: Ha'aretz, Arutz Sheva, Jerusalem Times (Palestinian), Al-
Ahram Weekly, Jewish Peace News
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