Elections Committee Votes Not to Ban Left-wing Party

The Central Election Committee narrowly upheld the right of the Progressive List for Peace, a left-wing pro- Palestinian Israeli Arab party, to run in the Knesset elections Nov.1.

The committee acted Thursday only a day after it voted overwhelmingly to bar Rabbi Meir Kahane’s extremist Kach Party from participating in the elections, on grounds that it engages in incitement to racism.

Both decisions have been appealed to the High Court of Justice, Israel’s supreme court.

Kahane is seeking a reversal of the ban on Kach, and the right-wing Tehiya and Likud parties are suing to remove the Progressive List for Peace from the ballot.

The court must render its verdict before next Wednesday, when election lists are closed by law.

Justice Eliezer Goldberg, the election committee’s chairman who is also a member of the High Court, cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the Progressive List for Peace.

Opposition to the Progressive List centered on its alleged rejection of Israel’s role as the state of the Jewish people.

But the party’s attorney argued that by demanding a separate Palestinian state alongside Israel, the Progressive List in effect recognizes Israel as the Jewish state.

The Central Election Committee’s decisions in both cases stemmed from an amendment to the Basic Law, which the Knesset adopted in 1984.

The amendment provides that a party can be barred from the Knesset if it rejects the principle that Israel is the state of the Jews; if it rejects democracy; or if incites to race hatred.

Justice Goldberg voted Wednesday to bar Kahane’s party on the racism charge. He did not go along with the smaller majority which held it was opposed to democracy.

He argued that the lawmakers, by singling out racism–a form of anti-democracy– as a disqualifying factor, clearly implied that the burden of proof of racism is much lighter than that regarding other forms of hostile ideology.

Those other forms, Goldberg stressed, must be proven to constitute a real and present threat to the fabric of society.

His position on the Progressive List was that it has not been proven to present such a threat.

Informed observers said Goldberg’s argument sought to confine the effect of the Basic Law to Kach, and prevent it from becoming a precedent for use against other marginal or extremist groups, “however unpopular or crude their views may be.”

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