Kahanist Politician Banned from Running in Elections

21 March 2019

In a victory for democracy and inclusion, Israel’s Supreme Court has barred Michael Ben-Ari, the leader of the extremist Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party, from running in the upcoming elections.

The judges voted 8-1 in favor of a petition calling for Ben-Ari to be disqualified over his racist ideology and incitement, after the Central Elections Committee narrowly approved his candidacy last week. The ruling marks the first time in the court’s history that the candidacy of an individual, rather than a party, has been barred.

Ben-Ari, whose Otzma Yehudit party is now part of the Union of Right-Wing Parties, has faced multiple bids to outlaw his candidacy under Article 7A of the Basic Law: The Knesset, which lists “incitement to racism” as one of three actions that disqualify a candidate from running for Knesset.

IRAC: Israel Religious Action Center (through the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism) filed a petition to the Central Elections Committee to ban Ben-Ari from running for Knesset and then filed a petition with the Supreme Court against the committee’s decision to allow him to run.

Responding to the court decision, Anat Hoffman, Executive Director of IRAC, said that “the Supreme Court [has] sent an important message that racist incitement has no place in Israel’s democracy. We at IRAC will continue to stand up to racism and racist incitement, and to fight using all of the educational, public, and legal tools at our disposal.”

In the court hearing, Aner Helman of the state prosecution argued that Ben-Ari has been inciting racism for years and that, in his speeches throughout his career, he does not make a distinction between the general Arab public and enemies of the state. He said that, for Ben-Ari, Arabs “have no faces, they are all traitors, a fifth column, and a murderous nation.”