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Israel bans far-right candidates for racism

August 26, 2019

Benzi Gopstein and Baruch Marzel of the Jewish Power party have been barred from the snap general elections in September. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was criticized for allying with the ultra-nationalist party.

Baruch Marzel and Benzi Gopstein, politicians from the Jewish Power party
Image: Getty Images/AFP/M. Kahana

Israel's Supreme Court banned two candidates from a far-right religious-nationalist party from running in the upcoming snap general elections in September.

The judges barred Benzi Gopstein and Baruch Marzel, both prominent politicians in Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit), or for inciting racism against Arabs.

Gopstein is also known as the head of the anti-assimilation Lehava organization, which seeks to prevent intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews and discourages the hiring of Palestinians and other Arabs. 

However, the court stopped short of banning the entire party list.

Baruch Marzel holds up his hand whiel speaking at a podium
Marzel was the spokesperson for the outlawed Kach movement for many yearsImage: Imago/Xinhua/

The appeal to disqualify Gopstein and Marzel was put forward by the progressive Reform Movement, the liberal Blue and White political alliance, the left-wing Democratic Union and Labor parties.

Jewish Power and Netanyahu alliance criticized

Jewish Power is a far-right political party that holds anti-Arab and ultra-nationalist positions. It has called for the annexation of the West Bank, transferring "enemy" Arabs to neighboring states, the dominance of religious law, and is against the formation of a Palestinian state.

It is descended from the outlawed far-right Kach party, led by Rabbi Meir Kahane until his assassination in 1990. Marzel was considered Kahane's right-hand man.

Israelis voted in national elections in April, re-electing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. However, after the prime minister failed to formed a government coalition, the parliament dissolved itself and called for new elections to be held on September 17.

Ahead of the April elections, Netanyahu cut a deal with Jewish Power and two other far-right parties in an attempt to boost his reelection chances. The moved drew sharp criticism both in Israel and internationally.

Jewish Power split off from the grouping following the April elections and has its own list for the September elections. 

cmb/aw (EFE, AP)

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