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Right-Wingers Scuffle With Arabs Over Vote Hearing

A violent scuffle broke out between right-wing Israeli activists and supporters of Arab-Israeli lawmaker Hanin Zoabi following a Supreme Court hearing on her disqualification from upcoming elections.

Hanin Zoabi

Zoabi said before a hearing in front of a panel of nine Supreme Court justices Thursday that she broke no law that could serve as the basis for disqualification. “To disqualify me would be to disqualify all Arab citizens,” Ynet quoted her as saying. Arab parties have threatened to boycott the Jan. 22 election if Zoabi’s suspension is upheld.

Israel’s Central Elections Committee voted last week to disqualify Zoabi from next month’s elections by a vote of 19 to 9, with one abstention. The disqualification was approved by the elections committee despite a decision the previous day by Israel’s Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein that there is not enough evidence to disqualify the Arab-Israeli lawmaker.

Zoabi participated in the May 2010 flotilla to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. She was on the Mavi Marmara, the ship on which nine Turkish passengers were killed after Israeli commandos storming the ship were attacked. She was later punished by the Knesset Ethics Committee for her actions. She also has been accused of incitement against Israel and its military.

Following Thursday’s court hearing, right-wing activists reportedly attempted to surround Zoabi and prevent her from leaving the courthouse. The activists reportedly scuffled with Arab activists as Zoabi was ushered out of the building via a back exit.

“If they don’t disqualify Zoabi today, tomorrow she’ll throw a bomb in the Knesset,” right-wing lawmaker Michael Ben-Ari said following the fracas, according to the Jerusalem Post.

The day before the hearing, Weinstein’s office said it would not defend the Central Elections Committee decision before the high court.

“While the significant evidence that has been amassed in her case approaches the limit of what is acceptable, there isn’t enough proof to disqualify her,” Weinstein wrote of Zoabi in a memo to the elections committee before its original vote.

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