Israel's Central Elections Committee has disqualified Arab political parties from participating in the forthcoming February 10 general elections following a heated debate that saw incessant accusations of "racism" and "disloyalty" exchanged between Jewish and Arab parliamentarians.
The Arab parties, 'Balad' and 'United Arab List - Ta'al', were barred by the committee in a vote that reflected sharp polarisation among country's Jewish majority and Arab minority on community lines over the ongoing fighting in Gaza.
'Balad' was disqualified by a vote of 26 to three, with one abstention, while 21 committee members voted in favour of barring the 'United Arab List-Ta'al', with eight members voting against and two members abstaining.
The Central Elections Committee is comprised of members from all major political parties.
During the hearing on Monday, Arab lawmaker, Ahmad Tibi, charged Israel with "targeting civilians and committing genocide in Gaza.
"You went to war as an elections campaign strategy. Every vote for Kadima is a bullet in the chest of a Palestinian child," Tibi said.
An infuriated right wing 'Yisrael Beteinu, parliamentarian, David Rotem, responded by saying, "We thought you were a friend of Israel and therefore we didn't question your party list. Where were you for the past eight years when Sderot (southern Israeli town that has repeatedly come under rocket attacks) was under attack?"
"You drink Palestinian blood. You are a racist," another Arab lawmaker Jamal Zahalka retorted.