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Israel bans NGO from transporting Bedouin voters to polling stations

Israelis will go to the polls on September 17 [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 September, 2019

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A decision by Israel's electoral committee has triggered the anger of Arab groups and lawmakers who say that many will be prevented from casting their vote on September 17.
Israel's election committee has ruled that a NGO will not be allowed to transport Bedouin Arabs to vote in the country's elections, Central Elections Committee chairman and Supreme Court Vice President Hanan Melcer said late on Sunday.

The decision came in response to a petition from Likud - the party of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - which alleged that the scheme sought "to topple the Likud party government and its leader" by "increasing the number of voters for the leftist bloc."

The election committee determined that Zazim - a group that describes itself as a "campaigning community for social and political change" - is acting as an "active election body". The ban falls under the "V15" law which limits the involvement of foreign-funded organisations in elections.

"Unfortunately, the Elections Committee is helping the Likud's efforts to suppress Arab citizens' votes," Zazim's Director-General, Raluca Ganea, was quoted by The Jerusalem Post as saying.

"The ruling is full of factual errors," she argued. "The ruling party's petition against a civil organisation with limited resources proved to be a lawsuit for censorship purposes."

The electoral body's decision has also been slammed by Arab lawmakers, who say as many as 50,000 voters will be prevented from casting their ballots.

Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman said that without the transport, Bedouin in unrecognised “villages without public transportation or polling stations” will be prevented from voting.

"This kind of transportation should be provided by the state, but not when their votes could threaten the oppressive regime,” she said.

Right-wing Zionist group Im Tirtzu, meanwhile, has hailed the ruling as "a major victory for Israeli democracy."

The group, which worked with Likud in campaigning against the bussing plan, also accused Zazim of being among the groups and individuals who "seek to erase the Jewish and democratic character of Israel."

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