A Shas TV campaign commercial which casts aspersions on the state conversion system has been labelled as “racist” by several politicians.
In the ad, a tall blonde woman named Marina, who is speaking Hebrew with a thick Russian accent, punctuated with phrases in Russian, dials “star conversion” on a fax machine while standing under a wedding canopy with her fiancé.
“Wait, you’re not Jewish?” her Sephardi-looking husband-to-be asks in surprise, as the reply fax rolls in.
“Now I am,” Marina responds happily.
Nino Abesadze, a Labor MK and head of the working group for immigrants within the party, denounced the commercial and appealed to the Central Elections Committee to ban the ad.
“The Shas broadcast is racist and ridicules the immigrant population,” Abesadze said. “It’s hard to imagine that in Israel in 2013, they could present in such simplistic terms a topic that is so painful and complicated, and give a platform at the expense of the taxpayer to such shadowy opinions.”
Seth Farber, an Orthodox rabbi and director of the religious rights lobbying group ITIM, also slammed the commercial and accused the party of hypocrisy.
“The chief rabbi of Israel, who is a signatory to every conversion certificate in the state of Israel, is allowing the party with which he identifies to belittle people who passed the state conversion system and people who are currently stuck in that system due to its intolerable bureaucracy,” Farber said in reference to Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar.
Farber also pointed out that Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef approved all state conversions, following a legal battle on the issue.
“This ad campaign is a slap in the face for immigrants from the former Soviet Union, Farber added, noting that “the Torah mentions 36 times the prohibition of denigrating converts” and calling on Yosef to ban the campaign.
Yoel Razvozov, who holds No.8 on Yesh Atid’s electoral list, also condemned the Shas ad.
“The commercial stereotypes immigrants from the former Soviet Union in a racist manner,” he said. “The campaign of hatred and racism underlines the dark and malicious side of the Shas party, which on a regular basis steals money from the middle class for the benefit of a narrow sector which does not serve in the army.”
Renegade Shas MK and Am Shalem party leader Haim Amsalem also weighed in: “Shas's broadcast against converts is racist and is a direct continuation of their ugly and divisive sectarian campaign.”