Photo Credit: Flash90
Otzma Yehudit Chairman Michael Ben Ari, April 6, 2019.

The chairman of Otzma Yehudit, former MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari, on Thursday submitted his response to the High Court of Justice regarding a petition by the Reform movement demanding that he be prosecuted for incitement to racism and violence. In it, Ben-Ari joins the petitioners in demanding that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit prosecute him, Srugim reported (מפתיע: מיכאל בן ארי מצטרף לעתירה נגדו לבג”ץ).

According to Ben-Ari, Mandelblit is obliged to prosecute him after committing “an attack on democracy,” as he puts it, when demanding Ben Ari’s disqualification from running to the Knesset, and that Mandelblit is obliged to prove his claims, which harmed Israeli democracy, in regular criminal proceedings.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit with Supreme Court President Esther Hayut, March 4, 2020. / FLASH90
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The 21st Knesset Central Election Commission rejected Mandelblit’s recommendation to disqualify Ben-Ari from running in the Knesset elections. The AG argued that there was a “critical mass” of evidence of racist incitement against Ben-Ari. About half an hour after the AG’s pronouncement, the Justice Ministry announced that the State Prosecution would investigate Ben-Ari for offenses of incitement to racism.

To date, a year and a half later, no such indictment has been filed and no rehabilitation of Ben-Ari has been offered.

Ben-Ari demand that Mandelblit prosecute him for inciting racism and violence, claiming he, Ben-Ari, had been wronged and defamed with his disqualification from running for the Knesset. He believes that if an indictment is filed against him, this would require criminal proceedings in which proof and evidence are required in a manner that does not take place in the High Court proceedings, at which point he would be able to clear his name and refute the baseless accusations of Mandelblit and the High Court judges who disqualified him.

Ben-Ari wrote to the High Court: “In the High Court hearing, I was not permitted to refute the accumulation of false evidence, most of which was distorted, cropped, or included allegations that had nothing to do with ‘incitement to racism.’ I was given less than two days to get an attorney, who couldn’t possibly study in that short a time the thick-bellied case against me. At the hearing, when I asked to respond on my own, I was given two minutes, during which I was cut off and disturbed again and again by the High Court judges, who seemed determined to disqualify my candidacy.”

Ben-Ari added: “The High Court ruled that I was disqualified by an overwhelming majority of eight judges in favor and one opposed. The judges’ arguments were published about five months after the disqualification, and included things that never existed. In the entire body of evidence against me there is not one citation of me saying, ‘Arab dogs,’ yet that did not stop Court President Hayut from writing that this was how I expressed myself as one of the grounds for disqualification.”

“As you know, I, an ordinary citizen, don’t have an opportunity to respond to the words of the Supreme Court justices. And this was not the only distortion in the list of reasons for my disqualification,” Ben-Ari wrote the court.

“For about a year and a half, I have been waiting for the AG to keep his promise to prosecute me in a venue with normal rules of evidence and testimony, and the examination of witnesses. A venue where I will have the opportunity to respond to the false arguments. A place where they will have to determine what is the legal definition definition of ‘racism,’ because there is nothing attributed to me that has not been said before by senior Israeli leaders or the leadership of Israeli Arabs. Someone will have to give answers about selective enforcement,” Ben-Ari wrote, adding: “Apart from the fact that I was denied the right to be elected, the State Attorney’s Office and the Supreme Court severely damaged my good name. I am not a racist, unless someone who fights for his people and his homeland against their mortal enemies is defined as a racist.”

Ben-Ari concluded his response: “In order for me to fulfill my right to prove my innocence, I ask the court to order the Attorney General and State Attorney, Dr. Avichai Mandelblit, to file an indictment against me.”

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