Shas: Appeal against election campaign ‘patronizing’ to Sephardi voters

Shas said that there was no difference between handing out baseball caps and other merchandise, as some party’s do, and the dedication of a letter in a Torah scroll.

April 2, 2019 19:09
2 minute read.
Yosef in 1998

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef Gallery 4. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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Shas has branded a petition against one of its election campaigns as “patronizing” and offensive to Sephardi voters, and has called on the chairman of the Central Election Committee, Judge Hanan Melcer, to reject it.

The Sephardi haredi (ultra-Orthodox) party has been running a campaign, known as “Yosef Aleichem” – a reference both to the late Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and a phrase meaning “increase for you” – in which it says that anyone who successfully brings another voter to Shas will have a letter in a new Torah scroll to be used at the Western Wall dedicated to them.

The Movement for Quality Government in Israel filed a motion against the campaign, arguing that this offer constitutes a form of bribery and violates laws against gift giving.

Distributing amulets, promising blessings as a result of voting for a certain party or threatening curses for voting for the “wrong” party are all forbidden by the Law for Knesset Elections.

In its response to the petition, Shas said that “The values of the love of Torah and love of the Land of Israel are expressed in the positions of Shas,” and that there was “nothing more appropriate” than dedicating a letter in the Torah to the party’s supporters.

The party said that there was no difference between handing out baseball caps and other merchandise – as some party’s do – and the dedication of a letter in a Torah, and said that the effort to do so was “patronizing” and “an insult to the intelligence of the voter.”

“According to the hegemony, the Sephardi voter is primitive and ignorant and does not have the capacity to vote if he chooses to vote for the Torah,” argued the party in its response, saying that this position runs counter to multiculturalism.

Shas has persistently used campaign tactics that violate election campaign laws, particularly in the realm of promising spiritual advantage.

During the 2015 general election campaign, Shas activists handed out cards, one side of which bore the image of a golden key and the other side stated “The word of Maran [Rabbi Ovadia Yosef]: Whoever votes Shas goes to straight to the Garden of Eden.”

The Central Elections Committee at the time banned the distribution of the cards.

SMS and WhatsApp messages were also disseminated to voters by the party during that election, which said “Maran Rabbi Ovadia Yosef: I won’t forgive someone who does not vote Shas, not in this world and not in the World to Come.”

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