Katsav, Beinish give thumbs down on election broadcasts

While one questions the clarity of the messages, the other questions their spirit and values.

Neither President Moshe Katsav nor Supreme Court Justice Dorit Beinisch, who chairs the Central Elections Committee, were enamored with the spirit or the content of the first night of election broadcasts. During a meeting with Katsav on Wednesday, Beinisch was asked by The Jerusalem Post what criteria she uses to draw the line on disqualifying racist material, given that the advertisements of both Herut's Michael Kleiner and the Jewish National Front's Baruch Marzel carried similar messages, yet part of the Herut advertisement was disqualified, while the Jewish National Front advertisement had been permitted to run. Beinisch conceded that when disqualifying campaign material, racist content is one of the essential criteria, but differentiated between specific utterances which were racially offensive and content that conveyed a racist message, but did not necessarily contain racist language. "We try to give the broadest possible license to freedom of expression, and we are very careful about not allowing preconceived notions to hinder us in permitting freedom of expression," she said. She made it clear, however, that the permissible standards set down in the Basic Law do not correspond with "the ethic or the spirit of what we want to see." The leaders of all the political parties had signed a covenant of honor to respect their rivals, she said, adding: "I hope they keep it." Katsav who had watched all the campaign broadcasts on Tuesday night, was plainly disappointed. As far as Katsav was concerned, the broadcasts lacked clarity. "I hope they do not reflect the information line they intend to pursue up until the elections. They mustn't confuse the public," said Katsav, stating that people should not be influenced by incitement or the emotional content of the campaign broadcasts, but by the information they convey.