Balad party, led by Jamal Zahalka

balad-political-party-israel

Party’s Official Name: Balad (Brit Le’umit Demokratit)

Leader: Jamal Zahalka

MKs in current Knesset: 3

Latest Haaretz poll: 4

The party of pan-Arab nationalism, Balad (National Democratic Alliance) was seen by many as a sign of growing radicalism among Arab Israelis when it was founded in 1995. It ran in a joint list with Hadash in the 1996 elections but ideological and personal differences led them to split, and since 1999, Balad has run independently. In every election since, the central elections committee has barred the party from running on the grounds that it supports terror and advocates the abolition of Israel’s Jewish and democratic character, while the High Court has overturned that ruling.

Balad’s charismatic founder, Azmi Bishara, was investigated for passing information to Hezbollah during the 2006 Second Lebanon War and receiving and laundering money from Lebanon. Rather than respond to the accusations, Bishara did not return from a trip abroad and resigned, by proxy, in 2007. Today he lives in Qatar where he runs a think tank and serves as a commentator for Al-Jazeera. Bishara’s successor as Balad leader, Jamal Zahalka, who was imprisoned in the 1970s for PLO activism, is a less colorful figure and the party’s most prominent MK is Hanin Zuabi, Bishara’s protege and the first woman MK from an Arab party. Zuabi attracted widespread criticism when she participated in the so-called “Gaza freedom flotilla” in 2010.

Balad’s policies include abolishing all Jewish characteristics of the state and a retreat from all the territories captured in 1967. It also calls upon Israel’s Arab citizens to see themselves as both Palestinians and members of the pan-Arab nation.

Along with its nationalism, Balad supports secular-liberal values and is ideologically opposed to the Islamic movement. The party has a tiny handful of Jewish supporters but none of them is in a leadership position.

Source: Haaretz Elections Center

Read more about Balad at the official Knesset website here.

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