Israel election: Netanyahu’s party sends activists with body cameras to areas with Arab voters

Netanyahu's right-wing party reportedly spent hundreds of thousands of shekels to provide monitors with some 1,200 cameras

Gemma Fox
Deputy International Editor
Wednesday 10 April 2019 09:43 BST
An Israeli Arab citizen from Taiybe town casts her ballot together with her son at a polling station
An Israeli Arab citizen from Taiybe town casts her ballot together with her son at a polling station

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's party has been accused of trying to intimidate voters after it sent activists equipped with body cameras to a number of polling stations with majority Arab constituents on Tuesday.

Israeli police said there had been "a number of suspected irregularities" in the north, where many Israeli Arabs – who comprise 21 per cent of the population – live.

Arab lawmaker Ahmad Tibi said the cameras seen at polling stations were illegal, and were a "direct attempt to sabotage" the freedom to vote.

The cameras were reportedly attached to the shirts of the Likud activists with the camera lenses visible.

Jamil Baransi, Deputy Mayor of Reineh, an Arab town in northern Israel, said that the representatives had entered all 17 local polling centres.

"We noticed that each one of these representatives had a camera on them, on their bodies," he said, adding that he believed the cameras were "designed to intimidate voters."

Mr Netanyahu, head of the right-wing Likud party, defended the filming, saying that cameras should be posted openly at voting stations everywhere to ensure "a valid vote".

"They are not hidden cameras. They are cameras in the open," Kobi Matza, a Likud election official, told Kan radio station. "We are worried about counterfeit (votes) in the Arab sector."

The party spent “hundreds of thousands of shekels” to provide the monitors with some 1,200 hidden cameras, Haaretz reported.

A right-wing source told the news agency that "the move was aimed to preserve the purity of the election and to assure that [Arab slate] Ra'am-Balad won’t pass the electoral threshold through falsifications."

Mr Netanyahu and opponent Benny Gantz were launching frantic last minute bids to secure more votes, with most final polls giving the former army chief a one-seat lead over the premier.

Ahmad Jamal Mahagny, 30, voting in the northern town of Umm al-Fahm later in the day, said: "I'm not sure what they were trying to do. Perhaps they wanted to disqualify the votes here."

In 2015, Netanyahu infuriated Israeli Arab leaders when he said that Arabs were flocking “in droves” to cast ballots, seen as an attempt to galvanise his right-wing base.

Many Israeli Arab were also angered by the passing of Israel's nation-state law last year, which declared that only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country.

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