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Arison Investments is an indirect partner in Poster Media, the billboard company that took down signs last week slamming Shari Arison for Bank Hapoalim's recent layoffs. Arison Investments holds 6.25 percent of Gaon Holdings' capital shares, which wholly-owns Poster Media.

Advertisements ordered by the Histadrut labor federation stated "Shari Arison is laughing - 900 families are crying." The ads, placed on hundreds of Poster Media billboards and bus stops in the Tel Aviv area, decried the dismissals of 900 Bank Hapoalim employees announced December 17.

Arison, Hapoalim's controlling shareholder, warned Poster Media that she would file a $10 million slander lawsuit against the company, and the billboards came down in two days. Arison's lawyer also contacted the Hebrew-language dailies Yedioth Ahronoth, Ma'ariv and Ha'aretz demanding they not publish similar advertisements. Yedioth turned down the ads in advance, while Ma'ariv and Ha'aretz stopped running those directed against Arison personally in favor of other Histadrut ads against the bank's redundancy plan.

"Despite the fact that Arison Investments holds a tiny stake in Gaon Holdings, Shari didn't hesitate to announce her plans to sue Poster Media immediately," Arison's spokeswoman said in response.

The Histadrut yesterday filed an urgent petition in Tel Aviv District Court seeking a temporary injunction ordering Poster Media to rehang the anti-Arison ads.

The national labor union argued that Poster Media "acted brutally - virtually bullying - when it unilaterally yanked the billboards in the middle of the night. Unacceptable and irrelevant financial interests motivated the company to breach a binding agreement and undermine an important public campaign."

The union said that before signing with Poster Media, the company's advertising manager approved the wording, look-and-feel, and colors of the campaign. After removing the ads, the company rejected a proposal to allow slightly differently-worded ads to run in their place.

It also claimed that removing the ads hurts freedom of expression and appoints Poster Media as censor. "This sabotages the public campaign the Histadrut is running in one of Israel's worst labor disputes ever."

Histadrut vigils at 60 Bank Hapoalim branches were held yesterday to protest the layoffs. In Hadera and Beit Shean, the police intervened to prevent rioting near the bank.