The Shas party has agreed to stop broadcasting its controversial campaign ad on
conversion, following a request from Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein,
the chairman of the Central Elections Committee.
Shas’s campaign ad casts
aspersions on the state conversion system, and features a tall blonde woman
named Marina, speaking Hebrew with a thick Russian accent, punctuated with
phrases in Russian, who dials “1-800-conversion” on a fax machine while standing
under a wedding canopy with her fiancé.
A return fax rolls in immediately
with her conversion certificate.
In a statement to the press, Rubinstein
said that “indeed there may be a sense of general injury” stemming from the ad,
“which is preferable to avoid,” and noted that Shas had agreed to withdraw
commercial “for the sake of peace.”
The advertisement was allowed to air
for the remainder of Wednesday.
Shas claimed, however, that Rubinstein
had not officially accepted the legal petitions against the commercial, and that
the party had only intended to run the ad for a single day and would, “as
planned,” broadcast different commercials with a similar message for the
duration of the campaign.
Among those who had petitioned the Elections
Committee to ban the ad was Labor MK Nino Abesadze and the ITIM religious rights
Earlier on Wednesday, Deputy Knesset Speaker and MK Shlomo
Molla (The Tzipi Livni Party) called on Yisrael Beytenu lawmakers who immigrated
to Israel to publicly denounce the Shas campaign ad which has been widely
decried as racist for negatively stereotyping Israelis who emigrated from the
former Soviet Union.
Yisrael Beytenu had refused to comment on the ad
until Wednesday afternoon, despite the fact that the largest block of the
party’s voters come from the Israeli-Russian community.
addressed his letter specifically to Yisrael Beytenu MK Sofa Landver, herself an
immigrant, also called on the party to declare publicly that it would not sit in
a coalition with Shas.
Molla addressed his letter specifically to Yisrael
Beytenu MK Sofa Landver, an immigrant from Russia, writing that Shas’s
commercial broadcast “a message of hatred and racism and delegitimization toward
the sector of the population you and your friends in Likud Beytenu claim to
represent in the coming elections.
“Shas’s campaign ad is patently racist
and threatens to undermine the fabric of Israeli society while directing
insulting messages to the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who came to Israel
and tied their fate to the state under the Law of Return,” Molla
The MK said that he expects Yisrael Beytenu legislators to
publicly denounce the Shas campaign “if you have left in you a shred of basic
decency and a drop of respect for your voters and for all Israeli
Molla said that without such a basic declaration, Yisrael
Beytenu MKs, “some of whom, like me, who experienced the pains of immigration,”
would be partners to the “hatred and racism” of Shas’s campaign.
did eventually respond, while making it clear she was reacting to the ad itself
and not to Molla.
“Shas’s racist propaganda was highly predictable,” she
said in a statement to the press.
“The Shas leadership has lost its moral
compass and its conscience... and the party tries time and again to make
political capital through hatred of the other and to blame its failures on the
immigrant community which has, for a long time, been a tool for societal
progress in all fields including the security and economy of the
Landver also said that a recent statement by Shas jointleader
Arye Deri that Likud Beytenu was a list of “Whites and Russians” was not a slip
of the tongue but a “motto for Shas’ propaganda.”
Yisrael Beytenu later
on Wednesday issued a statement, saying that Shas was concerned about its
standing in the polls which had led it to “racial incitement against whole
sectors of the people.”
The party also accused Shas of “desecrating Gods
name,” and said it would continue to work for conversion solutions for Israelis
of Jewish descent not defined as Jewish according to Jewish law.
party insisted, however, that its commercial was not targeted against any
specific person or particular sector of society, but was designed to warn of the
“danger of fictitious conversions and mixed marriages.
“Only Shas, which
has halted legislative initiatives to advance these things, can halt them in the
future as well,” the party said.
On Wednesday morning, ITIM director Seth
Farber spoke on Kol Berama radio with Shas MK Yitzhak Vaknin and berated him for
the “insensitivity and inappropriate” nature of the ad.
Vaknin said in
response that it was not the party’s intention to injure the feelings of
converts and he apologized if people had been offended.