Elections panel bans Likud ad featuring children

The Likud must remove an ad featuring children dressed up as party leaders Tzipi Livni, Naftali Bennett, Avigdor Liberman and Yair Lapid playing wildly in a preschool.

Likud video  (photo credit: screenshot)
Likud video
(photo credit: screenshot)
The Likud must remove an ad featuring children dressed up as party leaders Tzipi Livni, Naftali Bennett, Avigdor Liberman and Yair Lapid playing wildly in a preschool was posted online over the weekend, Central Elections Committee chairman Justice Salim Joubran ruled on Tuesday.
In response to petitions by the Movement for Quality Government and Yesh Atid, Joubran issued an injunction against the clip, ruling that Likud must ask YouTube and any major news site that put the video online to remove it.
Joubran ordered heads of television and radio stations not to broadcast the ad again, and that the Likud pay NIS 5,000 to cover the petitioners’ expenses.
Israel National Council for the Child director-general Yitzhak Kadmon and Peace Now secretary-general Yariv Oppenheimer submitted similar complaints.
The Elections Law (Campaign Method) states: “Election propaganda will not be [created] in collaboration with children under the age of 15. For this matter ‘in collaboration with’ does not include use of children photographed or recorded in routine activities for election propaganda.”
In the clip, the children play with highly symbolic toys. Yesh Atid head Lapid, a former finance minister, struggles with an abacus.
Bennett of Bayit Yehudi, who advocated a more aggressive military policy during Operation Protective Edge, plays with tanks.
Yisrael Beytenu’s Liberman, some of whose party officials are under investigation for corruption, refuses to share his toys. Finally, Hatnua’s Livni, who has been in four political parties in the past decade, runs around the room making a mess.
The real Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tries to calm the children down, complaining “We won’t get anything done today,” and says at the end: “It’s a waste of time. This kindergarten is impossible. To run the country, we need a strong, stable government. Vote Likud for electoral reform.”
The Likud’s campaign spokesman said the clip was not authorized for publication or broadcast and was put online due to a technical error. It did not appear on the party’s YouTube channel or Netanyahu’s Facebook page Saturday night, unlike other campaign videos.
The Movement for Quality Government wrote in its petition to the Central Elections Committee that the Likud’s claim the clip leaked accidentally is irrelevant and a way to avoid responsibility, in that every party could break campaign laws and then say it was a mistake.
The Likud replied that the prohibition against using children in campaign ads does not apply if the party got permission from the parents, which it did. In addition, the party said the children were filmed performing “routine activities” – playing with toys. Finally, the party said the clip had an important political message – that it is inefficient and ineffective to run a government made up of “a mosaic of small parties.”
Joubran ruled that the rule against using children in campaign ads applies to online videos, because it does not specify to which media it applies, unlike other articles in the law.
In addition, he wrote it does not make sense to say the children were engaging in routine activities, when they were dressed up as political figures – the one representing Liberman had a fake beard.
The judge said he found Likud’s response strange and questionable, because making an ad with children in it is clearly against the law.
“I have trouble understanding why money was invested and the prime minister bothered to film a video in the first place, if its content was not meant for broadcast,” he wrote. “It’s clear that the respondents already made significant political gains from the clip: Media, TV, radio and leading websites in Israel have been discussing the video for several days and broadcast it many times."
“Lawmakers saw fit to take our children outside out of the political arena, and this was greatly justified,” the Central Election Committee chairman wrote. “Any use of this kind of children is, in its nature, goes against the limited exceptions in the article [of the law] and is seen as cynical and opportunistic.”
Likud's campaign said: "We respect every decision the Central Election Committee chairman makes and will do as he said. However, it is important to emphasize that the film was produced with a positive legal opinion of Likud's legal adviser as part of a series of clips and was not authorized by Likud for publication and broadcast."
"The video only reached the Internet due to a technical mistake. Likud's campaign is already working on its next video, while taking extra care to follow the Central Election Committee chairman's rules and their spirit," the campaign added.
The Likud will have to report on its efforts to remove the video from the Internet to Joubran by January 25.