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What the hell?

Israel on Monday banned Arab political parties from running in next month's parliamentary elections, drawing accusations of racism by an Arab lawmaker who said he would challenge the decision in the country's Supreme Court.

Update 3: More detail in a BBC link (thanks deaniac83!).  It seems that 2 parties were banned, not all Arab parties.  We can debate whether this is racist as such.  I think it's arguably so, and definitely counterproductive.  Precisely the wrong message (or the right one, I suppose, if you think Israel's just being honest about the limitations of democracy there).  

This is not helping the whole "support Israel because it's a democracy, yo" idea.  I know such political actions pale behind the naked aggression being conducted in Gaza, but could the timing have been worse?  More:

The decision does not affect Arab lawmakers in predominantly Jewish parties or the country's communist party, which has a mixed list of Arab and Jewish candidates. Roughly one-fifth of Israel's 7 million citizens are Arabs. Israeli Arabs enjoy full citizenship rights, but have suffered from discrimination and poverty for decades.

How can a fair election be conducted when parties representing Arab interests are banned? This is insane.  

I've never bought in to the notion that Zionism equals racism.  It seems to me that Israel's history is more complicated than that, although there are elements of discrimination based on the perceived need for a majority Jewish population.  And Jimmy Carter's use of the term apartheid in the title of his book, while not, I think inaccurate, may have been inflammatory.  In other words, I think civility is a good thing in politics.  But this is just a loathsome development.  

Does anybody want to justify this?  Does anybody not think this will confirm those who think Israel's government is racist?  Will our President and President-elect condemn this anti-democratic, oppressive stunt?  

Or will the Senate pass by unanimous vote a resolution confirming Israel's right to exclude Arab parties?  

Update: Recommended, thanks!  

Some are arguing that the ban is possibly justified explained because the parties don't recognize Israel's right to exist.  I'd just say that this concept is almost infinitely elastic, and utterly unhelpful.  Here's an interesting discussion on the topic (h/t entlord1).

Update II: Just got an email to my personal email from someone I've never met that ended:

I have more respect for people admitting that they are anti-Semitic Nazis than trying to hide behind some bogus news reason.

Originally posted to kellogg on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 11:30 AM PST.

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