Zoabi’s Case: An Injustice the Court Did Not Fix

Freedom of Speech, Israel / OPT, Press Release, Shrinking Space for Civil Society

In an 8-1 ruling, the Israeli Supreme Court overturned the decision of the Central Elections Committee (CEC) to disqualify Arab MK Haneen Zoabi from the upcoming general elections. But although this ruling is important, it is not enough to reverse the damage already done to the rights of the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

The disqualification of Arab parties and candidates has become a predictable feature of every Israeli election for the past decade, and is part of the state’s wider attempts to repress political activism by Palestinian citizens. The CEC’s decision against MK Zoabi thus came as no surprise, nor did the committee members’ constant heckling and incitement during her speech in defense of her right to represent the Palestinian minority in the Knesset.

Contrary to the claims made in the disqualification motions, in none of MK Zoabi’s statements did she express support for the armed struggle of a ‘terrorist organization’. Her political positions instead reflect legitimate views that are shared by thousands of Palestinian men and women, including those who protested against Israel’s 2014 military offensive on Gaza, and who were met with police brutality and one of the largest campaigns of mass arrests in the Palestinian minority’s history.

Meanwhile, in contrast to MK Zoabi, right-wing MKs in the last Knesset were busy enacting a series of discriminatory laws and proposing bills to undermine the legal status of Palestinian citizens, including their rights to freedom of expression and association. While the Electoral Threshold Law targeted Palestinian representation in the Knesset, the proposed “Anti-Terror Bill” threatens political protestors and their families with severe punitive measures. The ‘crown jewel’ of this legislation, the “Jewish Nation-State Bill”, encapsulates the racist goals behind all these laws.

MK Zoabi’s disqualification is thus only one part of a larger game played by the Israeli authorities: from the CEC to the police to the Knesset, all play a role in the suppression of Palestinian voices that speak out against discrimination and the occupation.