March 18 (UPI) -- The Supreme Court of Israel has barred a right-wing politician from running in next month's general elections, due to anti-Arab racism.
In an 8-1 vote Sunday, the justices agreed with the recommendation of Attorney-General Avichai Mendeliblit to disqualify Otzma Yehudit candidate Michael Ben Ari from running in the April 9 election, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Ben Ari has long been accused of inciting racism -- one of three charges that can disqualify a candidate from running for Knesset, Israel's parliament.
Ben Ari condemned the decision as anti-democratic.
"There is a legal junta here who wants to take over our lives. This is not democracy," he said in a statement.
Last week before the court in a heated debate over his candidacy, state prosecutor Aner Helman argued that Ben Ari made no destination between Arab citizens and the enemies of Israel, the Times of Israel reported.
Ben Ari said Arabs "have no faces, they are all traitors, a fifth column and a murderous nation." The court also examined remarks by Ben Ari in 2018, when he said Arabs are the enemy of Israel.
"They want to annihilate us," he said last May. "Of course, there are loyal Arabs, but they can be counted as one percent and less than that. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of them are full partners to their brothers in Gaza."
Gaza is a Palestinian territory within Israel that's home to the militant group Hamas. Hamas and Israel have had numerous military conflicts over the decades, including most recently last week when Israel attacked over 100 Hamas targets in Gaza in retaliation for Hamas shooting two rockets at Tel Aviv.
While the court disqualified Ben Ari, it allowed Itamar Ben Gvir of the Otzma Yehudit party, which translates to Jewish Power, to run in the election. The ruling is the first time the court has disqualified an individual while permitting the party to continue to run in the election.
The court also approved the candidacy of a joint Arab party slate and a leftist Jewish candidate, overturning an earlier decision that disqualified the Balad-United Arab List slate and Ofer Cassif.
The Arab slate was barred because of one party in its alliance was challenged by right-wing politicians under laws that disqualify candidates or parties who challenge the definition of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
Cassif was originally disqualified over controversial comments, including calling Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked "neo-Nazi scum."
The Arab slate welcomed the acceptance of its appeal, which had said its disqualification was a "political decision" made without evidence.
"We are proud of our identity, our democratic vision, and call upon the democratic public in Israel, Arabs and Jews alike, to unite around the slate against the campaign of incitement and delegitimization against Arab society and its elected officials," the group said in a statement.
Shaked, however, accused the court of being partial and vowed to transform the judiciary during the Knesset's new term.
"It's the last straw for the High Court's justices -- and they have changed themselves into political actors," she said. "The High Court decision to disqualify Ben Ari, and on the other hand to approve the eligibility of [Arab political] parties, which support terror, is a massive and mistaken intervention going to the heart of Israeli democracy."