BANNING ARAB PARTIES IN ISRAEL…. If there’s a reasonable justification for this, it doesn’t come to mind.

Israel on Monday banned Arab political parties from running in next month’s parliamentary elections, drawing accusations of racism by an Arab lawmaker who said he would challenge the decision in the country’s Supreme Court.

The ruling by parliament’s Central Election Committee reflected the heightened tensions between Israel’s Jewish majority and Arab minority caused by Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip. Arabs have held a series of demonstrations against the offensive.

Parliament spokesman Giora Pordes said the election committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of the motion, accusing the country’s Arab parties of incitement, supporting terrorist groups and refusing to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Arab lawmakers have traveled to some of Israel’s staunchest enemies, including Lebanon and Syria.

The 37-member committee is composed of representatives from Israel’s major political parties. The measure was proposed by two ultranationalist parties but received widespread support.

There are Arab members of the predominantly Jewish parties and Israel’s communist party, but the move doesn’t affect them. One-fifth of Israel’s population is Arab. No good can come of a decision like this one.

The Israeli Supreme Court, where cooler heads are often more likely to prevail, will probably be expected to weigh in on the matter, and may ultimately reverse the ban.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.