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A Jewish Supremacist Party was Disqualified from the Knesset

A Jewish Supremacist Party was Disqualified from the Knesset

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Israel is a democracy that believes in free speech, but speech has consequences. According to Israeli law, those who incite to racism and violence are prohibited from serving in the Knesset. This principle was enshrined in Israeli law 18 years ago. The law was never applied - until yesterday.

Over the weekend, the Supreme Court published their decision to disqualify the candidacy of Michael Ben Ari, a known Jewish Supremacist, from running for the 21st Knesset. The ruling came in response to our petition against the decision by Israel's Central Election Commission two weeks ago to allow Ben Ari to run for Knesset. Ben Ari has been on our radar for years, referring to himself as the heir of Meir Kahane and using Jewish texts and traditions to incite to racism. This was our third attempt to disqualify him from running for Knesset. This ruling is a major victory for IRAC and our work against racism.

Our victory, unsurprisingly, triggered an avalanche of attacks against Israel’s Supreme Court, the Attorney General who supported our petition, and the Reform Movement. By marking a line in the sand and demanding that racism be outlawed, the most extreme anti-democratic voices in Israel have been brought out into the open. This is not a struggle between left and right. It is a struggle between those fighting to save Israel’s democracy and those who would destroy it by denying the rights of many of its citizens.

We woke up to a campaign ad for the New Right party, headed by Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennet, hanging in Jerusalem. It reads: "Shaked will be victorious over the Supreme Court. Bennet will be victorious over Hamas." The campaign likens the battle against the Supreme Court to the battle against Hamas.

Moshe Gafni, the head of Israel’s Finance Committee, said:

“It is high time we clarify to the Supreme Court that they have no place in ruling on issues of conscience, values, religion and State.”

Yet thousands of internet comments call the judges “Amalekites,” “criminals,” “corrupt,” “slaves of the Arabs,” and “malignant." It is as if a tsunami of hatred against the Supreme Court has crashed over our heads.

By disqualifying a known Jewish supremacist from running for Knesset, we have shown resistance to the wave of religiously-based racism in Israel. This has a dramatic effect on the landscape of our society. We are now defining who’s who in Israel. Against the Jewish voices preaching ethnocentrism, chauvinism, and racism, we are the voice of Judaism that is committed to religious pluralism and gender equality.

As we near the elections on April 9th, we are doing our noble duty by making it clear that there is more than one way to be Jewish. Are you?

Support IRAC’s work to protect Israel’s democracy, and advance pluralism and equality in Israel.

Anat Hoffman is the executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, the public and legal advocacy arm of the Reform Jewish Movement in Israel. She is also the chairwoman of Women of the Wall, a group of Jewish women and men from around the world who strive to achieve the right of women to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Anat Hoffman
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