The Egged bus cooperative has removed political advertisements on the sides of its buses sponsored by the far-left Meretz Party against the "haredization" of Jerusalem, officials said at the weekend.
The dispute, which comes less than two months before the city mayoral race, comes amid growing concern among some secular city residents over the increasingly haredi makeup of the capital, which has been run by a haredi mayor for the last five-and-a-half years.
The Hebrew advertisements on the the city's Egged buses, which called for "putting an end to the 'haredization' of Jerusalem," were taken down this week following complaints by a haredi lawmaker.
"It is hard to understand how Egged authorized such incitement on its buses, which are used daily by thousands of haredi passengers," Mk Avraham Ravitz of the United Torah Judaism Party had written to the head of the bus company's Jerusalem office earlier this week.
The parliamentarian also appealed to Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz to investigate whether the political advertisement campaign was legal and fell within the confines of freedom of speech.
"Meretz is not allowed to use freedom of expression to incite against other legitimate sectors of the Jerusalem public with [prejudicial] slogans," he wrote.
Egged quickly agreed to take down the offending ads.
"Egged buses cannot be an arena for a brawl between different sectors of the public and therefore we will not lend a hand to negative advertising," an Egged spokeswoman said in a written statement Thursday.
She added that the bus cooperative does not intend to hurt the feelings of its hundreds of thousands of haredi and religious passengers.
A Meretz city councilman blasted the bus company for "capitulating" to the haredi pressure.
"Egged has long become part of the haredi establishment," said Jerusalem city councilman Pepe Alalo.
He noted that certain Egged buses are already segregated by haredi request, and quipped that a mikva, or ritual bath, on board buses could be next.
"This is further proof that they are even trying to take away our freedom of expression," he said.
The dovish party has a marginal role in the largely traditional city.
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