Israeli court bars extremist Jewish Power members from September elections, but refuses to ban party

Israeli court bars extremist Jewish Power members from September elections, but refuses to ban party
The Supreme Court barred two members of the extreme-right Jewish Power party from the elections but refused to ban the party.
3 min read
26 August, 2019
The party is a descendent of extremist rabbi Meir Kahane's Kach movement [AFP]

Israel's Supreme Court has barred two members of a racist extreme-right party from running in the country's upcoming 17 September general election.

The court ruled that Benzi Gosptein and Baruch Marzel, candidates for the Jewish Power party, could not stand, citing a law banning "incitement to racism" by candidates, according to a court statement late on Sunday.

Jewish Power members are followers of the late rabbi Meir Kahane, whose extremist Kach movement sought the expulsion of Palestinians from the Israeli state and occupied Palestine. 

Kahane's Kach was banned from participating in elections in the late 1980s and has subsequently been recognised as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the US and the European Union. Followers of Kahane have been implicated in multiple extremist attacks and plots against Palestinians over the past few decades.

Baruch Goldstein, who carried out the 1994 massacre of 29 Palestinian worshippers in Hebron, was also a follower of Kahane.

The court rejected petitions to ban the Jewish Power as a party while ruling Gopstein and Marzel could not stand.
Gopstein, who has reportedly praised Goldstein in the past, is the director of Lehava, a far-right organisation that opposes marriage between Jews and non-Jews. It also stands against the presence of Christians in the Holy Land. 

Marzel acted as Kahane's "right-hand man" and was the spokesman for the Kach party until it was outlawed following the Hebron massacre. He reportedly organised a party at Goldstein's grave on the Jewish holiday Purim.

Both Gopstein and Marzel live in illegal Israeli settlements in Hebron.

The Supreme Court also upheld the candidacy of West Bank settler Itamar Ben-Gvir, who heads the party's electoral list.

Ben-Gvir admits having a picture of Goldstein in his living room, but has reportedly said it is because he was a physician who rescued Jews targeted in Palestinian attacks.

Indicted 53 times since his youth, Ben-Gvir now represents settlers accused of violence, including those accused of an arson attack that killed an 18-month-old Palestinian boy and his parents in 2015.

Jewish Power followers call for the expulsion of "Israel's enemies" and advocate for Israel annexing the occupied West Bank, where more than 2.5 million Palestinians live.

Alone the party was considered unlikely to garner the 3.25 percent of votes cast necessary to get into parliament.
But a deal brokered by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu saw it entering into an electoral alliance with two other far-right parties earlier this year, improving its chances.

The pact drew disgust from many in Israel and among Jewish communities abroad, particularly in the US.

Netanyahu has defended the deal, saying he does not want any right-wing votes to go to waste as he attempts to form his next coalition.