Israeli Arab running for Knesset banned after calling for Jewish State’s destruction

Israel’s attorney general opined that Ibtisam Mara’ana should not be barred from the Labor list despite her hateful comments.  

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Central Elections Committee (CEC) decided Wednesday to bar Labor candidate Ibtisam Mara’ana from running for Knesset in next month’s elections due to her numerous anti-Israel public statements and support for Israel’s enemies.

The right-wing Likud, Yemina, and Otzma Yehudit parties supported the motion. They were joined by Shas, but its fellow ultra-Orthodox party, United Torah Judaism, abstained. The final vote was 16-15.

When the CEC disqualified anti-Israel far-left and Arab candidates from running in the past, the Supreme Court regularly overturned their decisions.

Otzma Yehudit party head Itamar Ben Gvir had requested that the CEC bar Mara’ana, as well as the Joint List and Ra’am, the two main Arab parties in the current campaign. Mara’ana is an Arab Israeli who has a history of posting extreme statements that “incite racism on a nationalist basis,” according to Ben Gvir, which are grounds for dismissing her candidacy.

The central piece of evidence he brought was a statement she made in a newspaper interview in 2008, in which the 45-year-old former documentary filmmaker said, “If I would order an apocalyptic script, I would destroy [Jewish city] Zichron Yaakov…so they’d go back to the United States or Poland.”

There were other comments that riled the right-wing members as well. Mara’ana has said that Gaza, from which Israel fully withdrew in 2005, was “a ghetto under cruel occupation.” As recently as two months ago, she still called the IDF “an occupation army” on social media.

Mara’ana, who teaches at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, has written in praise of Nakba (Catastrophe) Day, which is what Arabs call May 15, the secular date on which the State of Israel was declared in 1948. She has also expressed support for an Islamic Jihad terrorist who had gone on a hunger strike.

In 2013, she bragged about how she had refused to observe the minute of silence on Memorial Day in honor of Israel’s fallen soldiers. She wrote that she had continued to drive her car instead of pulling over to the side of the road and standing still by her vehicle, as is traditional when the nationwide siren sounds.

Ben-Gurion ‘would have died of shame’

“If [Labor prime minister David] Ben-Gurion had been alive today he would have died of shame over having such a person on a Zionist list,” said CEC member Shlomo Karai of the Likud.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit had sent a letter to the committee recommending that Mara’ana be allowed to run. He wrote that in his legal opinion, considering “the high standard of evidence required and the strict criteria for disqualifying a candidate for Knesset,” there is “no evidentiary basis” for any of them to be excluded.

Mandelblit noted in his letter that Mara’ana had apologized for the post regarding Memorial Day in a Saturday night interview on Channel 12, expressing “sincere remorse for the content… to anyone who was hurt by it.”

Mara’ana told the network, “I stand at the siren when I’m outside. I’m sorry it hurts every mother’s father, brother or sister who lost their daughter or son – it doesn’t matter what the reasons are.” She would not have written such a post “today,” she added, saying it was a “poor” statement.

Mandelblit’s letter sparked a sharp reaction from right-wing politicians.

‘Attorney-General legitimizing Israel haters’

“Once again, the attorney general is folding and legitimizing Israel haters,” said Ben Gvir, noting that Mandelblit had not hesitated to “rush to judgment” to bar top members of his right-wing party due to their anti-Arab statements when they tried to run for Knesset. “When it comes to someone who is proven beyond any doubt that she denies the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish State and expresses open support for terrorism – the attorney general is struck speechless.”

“How unsurprising but still simply unbelievable!” Likud MK May Golan said. “In the eyes of the attorney general, a Knesset candidate who mocks and scorns the Holocaust, Memorial Day, and calls for Jews to leave the State of Israel – is still somehow fit to run for our legislature.

“For the millionth time, the leftist camp is again getting a legal stamp of approval for all its deviant actions and words. How shameful.”

Mara’ana is not completely new to politics. In 2009, she placed 12th in the far-left Meretz party but withdrew before the elections after the party expressed support for Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, which temporarily stopped Hamas from launching a steady stream of indiscriminate rocket fire into Israel.

Mara’ana won eighth place on the Labor Party list in its recent primaries and moved up one slot when party head Meirav Michaeli decided that every other candidate should be a woman. According to most polls to date, this is not considered a high enough placing to give her a realistic chance of entering the Knesset.