Police arrest Israeli Arab party officials in funding probe
Deutsche Welle, Sep 18 201§6
Israeli police on Sunday announced they detained several members of a leading Israeli Arab political party as part of an investigation into the group’s financing. police said in a statement:
More than 20 suspects, including officials and activists in the Balad party, among them lawyers and accountants (were arrested) on suspicion of fraud in connection with funds received that were used to finance the party’s activities.
While the police did not comment on the origins of the finances in question, it said Balad created a mechanism that misrepresented “the origin of millions of shekels” for years through “fraud, illegal registration of corporate documents, forgery and use of false documents.” But Balad, which forms part of a coalition of Israeli Arab parties in parliament known as the Joint List, described the charges as arbitrary, saying it the arrests aimed at “silencing Balad.” the party said in a statement:
This is a dangerous escalation and another stage in the political persecution of the Arab minority and political movements (which are) the spearhead in the struggle against repression and discrimination.
Israel’s Arab minority accounts for 17.5% of the country’s population of 8 million, with a large portion of them supportive of an independent Palestinian state. The minority group experiences “higher unemployment and poverty rates than their Jewish counterparts” with dozens of Israeli laws found to categorically discriminate against them, according to an EU report. This is not the first time Balad has come under scrutiny in Israel for alleged actions. Earlier this year, Balad’s three members of Knesset, Israel’s parliament, met with the surviving relatives of Palestinians who Israeli authorities claimed were killed while carrying out attacks. The party’s founder and then-MK Asmi Bishara also fled Israel in 2007 after being accused of advising Hezbollah on where to direct rocket fire during the Israel-Lebanon war the year before.