Shas agrees to pull controversial campaign ad

Following a request from Election C'tee chairman Rubenstein, the party agrees to withdraw commercial “for the sake of peace."

Shas conversions election ad 370 (photo credit: YouTube Screenshot)
Shas conversions election ad 370
(photo credit: YouTube Screenshot)
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 organization.
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.
Molla, who 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 wrote.
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 citizen.”
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.
Landver 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 country.”
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.”
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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.
The 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.