A Case Study in the Banning of Political Parties: The Pan-Arab Movement El Ard and the Israeli Supreme Court


Attempts to outlaw political groups that are alleged to approve the use of violence, to limit the expression of views that challenge the core values of democratic nation-states, and to ban radical, separatist, or religious political parties are more widespread in recent years than at any other time since 1945. They gave rise in the last few years to litigation in Constitutional Courts and Supreme Courts in Spain, Germany, Turkey, France, Israel, and Latvia, as well as in the European courts.

The present article tells the story of the encounter in the years 1959-1965 between the Pan-Arab national movement El Ard (“The Land”) and the Israeli executive and judicial branches. The movement’s affairs were litigated in the Israeli Supreme Court six times in less then five years. Taken together, the six decisions raise important questions of civil rights, judicial review, jurisprudence, and legal theory.

The article uses the case of El Ard in a manner that can be of interest to scholars of comparative constitutional law: it elaborates on the question of how to interpret the objectives of a party; it grapples with the question of what constitutes support for terror and for the use of violence; it raises issues related to the nature of separatism, irredenta, and pan-nationalism; it problematizes the test for adherence to democratic principles; and it deals with the effects of emergency and post-war situations. The case study places in thick context, with ample nuances, the dilemmas and doubts involved in the ban of political parties, which have recently came to preoccupy many of Europe’s governments and courts.


Civil Rights and Discrimination | Comparative and Foreign Law | Constitutional Law | Human Rights Law | International Law | Law and Politics | Law and Society | Legal History | Military, War, and Peace

Date of this Version

August 2004