Committee Disqualifies Arab MK from Elections

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- The Central Elections Committee voted Wednesday to ban Arab Knesset member Hanin Zoabi from running in the Jan. 22 elections in part because of her participation in the 2010 attempt by the Turkish-owned flagship Mavi Mamara to breach Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Nine people were killed after Israeli commandos were forced to open fire on pro-Palestinian activists who attacked them with knives, clubs, chains, and other weapons as they boarded the ship to insist the captain change course from Gaza to the Israeli port of Ashdod.

Israel maintains a naval blockade on the coastal enclave to prevent weapons smuggling from the sea into Hamas-controlled Gaza. But food and other supplies have no problem entering the area by land transport across Israeli borders.
 
The 9-1 vote will likely be overturned next week when it automatically goes to the Supreme Court. The committee voted against disqualifying two predominately Arab parties: Zoabi's Balad (National Democratic Assembly) party and the United Arab List-Ta'al party.

Zoabi said the vote "is marred by illegitimacy and the trampling of basic democratic rights." She added that the decision "blatantly dismissed" the attorney general's conclusion that "there were no legal grounds for disqualification."

MK Zoabi said she joined the flotilla at the behest of certain Europeans organizers and was never affiliated with (Insani Yardim Vafki), the quasi-humanitarian relief fund that sponsored the event.

Israeli Defense Force video of Zoabi during the confrontation appeared to belie her claim of being unaware she was traveling with armed activists.

She later told Army Radio she thought the metal pipes they used were standard equipment on board a ship, not weapons.

It's not the first time members of Balad and the United Arab List parties have been suspected of activities against the state.
 
MK Ahmed Tibi, who served as political adviser to the late PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, referred to Israelis as "those who occupy and murder."
 
"The shahid is the symbol of the homeland," Tibi said on Palestinian television in January 2012.
 
"Greetings to the thousands of shahids in the homeland and elsewhere, and greetings to our shahids and yours, within the Green Line -- those whom the occupation would want to be referred to as terrorists, but we say that there is nothing more exalted than those who have died for the sake of the homeland. That occupier is the real terrorist and in Israel he is considered a hero or a cabinet minister," he said.
 
In 2007, former Balad MK Azmi Bishara left the country to avoid investigation of his suspected dealings with Hezbollah during the 2006 Second Lebanon War. Bishara has remained in self-imposed exile since then.
 
Meanwhile, IHH director Bulent Yildirim is under investigation for providing aid to al Qaeda through his organization, the Turkish daily Habertürk reported. IHH funding and support for Hamas and other terror groups is well documented.

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