Elections panel nixes belly-dancing Liberman ad

Rubinstein bans ads from "Election Propaganda Broadcasts," including Balad video for "disgracing symbols of the Jewish state."

January 8, 2013 12:53
2 minute read.
Balad campaign video features Liberman dancing.

Liberman belly dancing 370. (photo credit: YouTube Screenshot)


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Israelis watching the concentrated election commercial broadcasts on Tuesday night won't be seeing what all the parties intended them to see, after the Central Election Committee disqualified an ad from one party and part of an ad from another.

Likud and Labor are holding election ad viewing parties with Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar and Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich, respectively, when the commercials are first broadcast on Channel 10 at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

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The first commercial, by Balad, features a belly-dancing, googley-eyed cartoon of Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman singing a version of the national anthem, HaTikvah, with a Middle-Eastern-music twist. Liberman is flanked by Right-wing MKs Arieh Eldad (Strong Israel), Danny Danon (Likud), Michael Ben-Ari (Strong Israel) and Ofir Akunis (Likud).

Central Election Committee chairman Judge Elyakim Rubinstein banned the ad from being played in what is officially known as the "Election Propaganda Broadcasts," because "disgracing symbols of the country, the Jewish democratic state, is not acceptable as part of any list's election campaign."

Balad leader Jamal Zahalke said the decision is undemocratic and goes against freedom of expression.

Rubinstein also asked Strong Israel to remove parts of its commercial. The ad begins with a message that many Israeli Arabs do not pay their share of taxes and a jingle calling for “hawks in the voting booth and hawks in the Knesset.”

Then, the clip shows the party’s leader, MK Michael Ben-Ari, offering tea and saying “fadel” (please in Arabic) to Strong Israel’s other leader, Arieh Eldad, who accepts and says “shukran” (thank you in Arabic). The two continue to have a conversation in Arabic with Hebrew subtitles essentially saying that all citizens must fulfill their obligations to society before receiving benefits.

The Central Election Committee chairman said that the sentence "there are no privileges without obligations, and without fulfilling obligations, you cannot demand privileges," which is said in Arabic, must be removed. In addition, the words "no to an Arab state, no to a state of [African] infiltrators," must be removed from Strong Israel's radio ads.

According to Eldad and Ben-Ari, the sentences they were asked to remove are "legitimate in a civilized democracy and justified from a public and legal standpoint. Any attempt to erase them harms freedom of expression."

Political parties across the spectrum have prepared for weeks ahead of Tuesday night’s election commercials broadcast, with video clips featuring maps, cartoons, humor, improvisation and more.

The televised “Election Propaganda Broadcasts,” as they are officially called, will first be broadcast in Hebrew on Tuesday at 6 p.m. on Channel 10, followed by Channel 1 at 10 p.m. and Channel 2 at 11:15 p.m. They will continue on Sundays through Thursdays until January 21. Election commercials will also be played on Israel Radio and, for the first time, on Army Radio.

The ads are played all at once, and time is allocated according to the party’s size in the current Knesset, while new parties get a standard amount. It is illegal for parties to buy television or radio ads to be broadcast at any other time.

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