Arab minority in Israel objects to the presence of cameras at polling stations

Israel
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UNITED STATES (VOP TODAY NEWS) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party sent monitors with cameras hidden in their bodies to a number of polling stations in predominantly Arab areas on Israel’s election day on Tuesday, a move condemned by Arab politicians as an act of intimidation.

When asked about the use of cameras on polling stations, police said there were “suspected irregularities” in the north, where many Israeli Arabs, who represent 21 percent of Israel’s population, live.

Netanyahu, who polls show strong rivalry with his main centrist rival, defended photography, saying cameras should be placed in polling stations across the country.

Netanyahu angered Israeli Arab leaders in 2015 when he said Arabs were pouring “in large numbers” on polling stations. Analysts said the statement was an attempt to encourage its right-wing base to take part, adding to the long-standing mistrust among Arabs.

Arab MK Ahmad Tibi said the cameras were illegal and were a direct attempt to sabotage the vote.

In such highly contested elections, Arab turnout may be a major factor. Many of them were angered by the 2018 State of the Jewish People Law, which stipulates that Jews alone have the right to self-determination in the country. Netanyahu supported the law.

Arab officials at polling stations in several Arab towns in the north said the cameras did not depict the curtains, but they were stuck in the shirts of Likud representatives and their lenses were visible.

Complaints came from polling stations in predominantly Arab locales. A Likud spokesman responded by saying whether the representatives carrying cameras were also sent to Jewish-dominated centers, saying he did not know.

The head of Israel’s Central Election Commission, Judge Hanan Melzer, said she was aware of complaints about “hidden cameras” but it was made clear that voters were not filmed while casting their votes.

She said it was forbidden to shoot inside polling stations unless there were fears of “significant harm” to the electoral process.

“I do not know what they want, maybe they want to cancel votes here,” said Ahmed Jamal, 30, casting his vote in Umm al-Fahm later.

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