High Court: Sakhnin Party Legal

The High Court has ruled in favor of the Sakhnin communist party, saying it is legal despite alleged support for terrorism.

Maayana Miskin,

Hadash party flag
Hadash party flag

The High Court rejected an appeal filed by the Movement for Quality Government (MQG) on Thursday. MQG asked the court to retroactively ban the Sakhnin Democratic Front, which won three seats in the Sakhnin municipal elections. Parties should only be banned under the most extreme circumstances, the High Court ruled, and the allegations against the Sakhnin party do not qualify as such.

The MQG had hoped to disqualify the Democratic Front, a branch of the Hadash communist party, due to alleged support for terrorism. One of the party's candidates for city council, Tagrid Saadi, was a recently released terrorist who assisted a suicide bomber who murdered six people in Jerusalem in 2002.

Saadi stepped down once her terrorist record became widely known, but while she was on the list, the party used her actions as part of its campaign propaganda, MQG charged. The Democratic Front allegedly distributed flyers and posters calling on residents of Sakhnin to “vote for the prisoner for freedom,” and expressed support for Saadi's actions, calling her a “freedom fighter.” The party was clearly aware of Saadi's terrorist background from the moment she joined the list, despite claims to the contrary, MQG alleged.

High Court President Dorit Beinisch ruled that the evidence pointing to official Democratic Front support for terrorism was insufficient. In order to ban a party, there must be clear and unequivocal evidence that the party seeks to destroy Israel as a democratic and Jewish state, she said. The right to vote and be elected is a basic right that must be protected under all but the most extreme circumstances, Beinisch explained.

In addition, Beinisch ruled that the law MQG attorneys had based their appeal upon (Clause 27b of the Elections Law) did not support the group's case. The clause allows the court to bar a party for technical reasons, such as voter fraud, she said, not for fundamental reasons involving the party's ideological platform.

While many European countries passed laws banning political parties with anti-democratic values following World War II, Israel did not. However, in 1959 the High Court set a precedent allowing some parties to be barred from running in elections, when it decided to ban the Socialist List prior to the Sixth Knesset elections. The list was banned due to its members' calls to destroy the state.

The precedent was restricted by later High Court justices, and the only party banned in recent years has been the Zionist Kach party. Kach was charged with racist incitement for calling for hostile Arabs to be expelled from Israel and saying the right to vote in national elections should be exclusively Jewish.