JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Supreme Court voted to disqualify Michael Ben Ari, head of the far-right Jewish Strength or Otzma Yehudit Party from running in national elections over his racism and racist incitement.
The court decided on Monday by a vote of 8 to 1 in favor of an appeal by the Reform Movement in Israel, represented by the Israel Religious Action Center, to overturn a decision made by the Israel Central Elections Commission on March 12 to allow Ben Ari to continue his campaign.
The appeal cited numerous examples of racism and racist incitement by Ben Ari throughout his career. In arguments before the court on Thursday, Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said Ben Ari’s racist ideas, which he desires to turn into reality, “constitute the candidate’s central and overriding goal … [and is] a defining expression of his identity as a candidate.”
Ben Ari has said the remarks cited by the petition have been taken out of context. He condemned the decision by what he called the “legal junta… trying to control our lives.”
Ben Ari is in the fifth slot on the joint slate of the Union of Right-Wing parties, which gave him a realistic chance to join the Knesset. He served in the parliament from 2009 to 2012 as part of the National Union Party.
Ben Ari’s party, which follows the tenants of the banned extremist Kach party and its leader Meir Kahane, joined with The Jewish Home and National Union parties to form the Union of Right-Wing Parties in a deal brokered in part by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Today, the Supreme Court sent an important message that racist incitement has no place in Israel’s democracy,” Anat Hoffman, IRAC executive director of IRAC, said in a statement.
The Supreme Court also decided to reinstate the Arab party slate of the Balad-Ra’am and Ofer Kassif a far-left Jewish candidate running on the slate of the Arab Hadash-Ta’al parties.