NGO seeks to sway Israeli elections by busing in Bedouins

An Israeli human rights group asked Israel’s State Comptroller to investigate an NGO which plans to bus in Bedouin voters residing in illegal settlements in the Negev to sway the Israeli election.

By Sheri Oz, World Israel News

Israeli human rights organization, Betzalmo, petitioned the State Comptroller of Israel yesterday requesting an immediate investigation into illegal activities on the part of non-governmental organization Zazim.

Zazim has been running a campaign to collect funds and recruit volunteers to transport Bedouin residents residing in illegal villages in the Negev to polling stations for the April 9 elections. The Bedouin are legal voters and residents of Israel.

Zazim was founded with funds from the New Israel Fund, which together with associated organizations, provides 60 percent of the NGO’s annual budget. The New Israel Fund has developed a reputation for funding controversial groups in Israel. It is registered in the United States.

In his petition to State Comptroller Yosef Shapira, Betzalmo CEO Shai Glick argues that a foreign organization is interfering in Israeli elections, something that is forbidden by Israeli law.

On its website, Zazim says it works toward social and political change without partisanship. However, in an email sent by Zazim to recruit volunteers and donations for its transport project, it states that its aim is to bring 50,000 Bedouin to the polling stations and build an obstructive block in the Knesset against ‘incitement to racism’ and to work against those unwilling to cooperate with the Arab political parties.

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Another Israeli nonprofit, Im Tirtzu, requested that Israel’s Central Elections Committee intervene last week. Its request was denied on April 4, because only parties with representatives in the Knesset or participating in the elections have standing before the committee.

Zazim Deputy Director Maayan Dak told Israeli paper Makor Rishon that Zazim does not operate outside the law.

Following Betzlamo’s petition to the State Comptroller, Zazim submitted a statement to World Israel News, in which it said: “Just when the Likud has spent a million shekels on Facebook [ads] this past week, the prime minister attacks a civilian initiative that cost 75,000 NIS  [New Israeli Shekels] of small donations. This is part of his ongoing attack against the Arab minority and attempts to silence their voice and deny them access to their basic democratic right to vote.”

New Israel Fund spokesman Idan Gadot told World Israel News that “all Israelis have the obligation to encourage voting in elections, Jews and Arabs alike. We are proud that Zazim has taken this important step to allow each citizen to participate in the election.”

In addition to Betzalmo’s petition to the State Comptroller, the Likud Party submitted a petition on Sunday evening to the Central Elections Committee arguing that Zazim is “unlawfully intervening in elections in favor of the Blue and White Party, run by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid.”