TEL AVIV – The double suicide attack that killed at least 23 people, mostly guest workers, and wounded about 100, at a crowded downtown street corner here, has in one stroke diverted public focus from the deepening election scandal involving Prime Minister Sharon’s Likud Party in ballot-rigging, bribery and corruption.

The suicide bombing gave temporary respite from the corruption scandals around the Likud Party primaries. The Likud set up its list of candidates for the Knesset elections, which included a massive infiltration of organized crime elements. Some organized crime bosses succeeded in getting almost certain winning slots for Knesset seats on the Likud list.

Some Likud leaders are still on the election list even though they are under police investigation, like the now-ousted deputy minister Naomi Blumental, who still holds the ninth slot on their list.

The latest figure to be under criminal investigation is Sharon’s son, Omri, who heads his father’s election board, and had been the PM’s envoy at international events.

Spokespersons for Israeli peace and democracy forces continued to expose the anti-democratic and openly racist scandal around the disqualification of two outgoing Arab Knesset deputies, and the Arab radical left and nationalist Balad Party from election participation. The Central Election Board, composed of representatives of all the political parties from the outgoing 15th Knesset, had prohibited Knesset Members (MK) Azmi Bishara and Ahmad Tibi, as well as the Balad Party, which is chaired by Bishara, from taking part in the 16th Knesset elections. The ruling establishment accused Bishara, Tibi and the Balad Party of fraternizing with alleged Palestinian terrorists. On the other hand, the same Board ok’d the leader of the outlawed racist, fascist Kahane-Hai to participate in the same election. These scandalous resolutions of the Election Board are on appeal to the Supreme Court in Jerusalem where there would be a demonstration Jan. 7 when the Court hears the case.

On Jan. 4, thousands of Arabs and Jews marched through Nazareth, in spite of stormy weather, protesting these scandalous disqualifications. Yafia Mayor Shawqi Khatib told the demonstration that the Election Board’s anti-democratic and outright racist decision was a direct result of the decades long anti-Arab policies, which also includes the October 2000 police killing of 12 Arab citizens, as well as the recent racist agitation, led by politicians from the ruling Likud and their right-radical associates.

Bishara told another demonstration that these racists detest it when one million Arab-Palestinian Israeli citizens demand full equality, as well as express solidarity with their Palestinian brothers and sisters, who suffer from brutal colonialist oppression and massive land robbery, but still fight for their national liberation, self-determination and independent statehood.

Demonstrations and vigils with Jewish and Arab participation took place also in Haifa and Jerusalem.

There are calls by certain groups among the Arab Israeli population, to boycott the elections, if the Supreme Court confirms the disqualification decisions. However, most of the pro-peace parties and movements are against a boycott, saying it is a vote for Sharon and his racist cronies.

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