The chairman of the Central Election Committee, Judge Elyakim Rubinstein, banned on Wednesday an ad campaign by the right-wing party Otzma Leyisrael over charges that it was racist.
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The campaign was "meant to degrade a single group in the State of Israel – The Arab population," explained Rubinstein.
The campaign ads, which were posted on buses across Israel, included the word "loyalty" in Arabic, with a Hebrew caption underneath saying: "Without duties there are no [civil] rights."
The decision to ban the ads was made after five civil rights activists filed a complaint with the committee. The five were Louise Frankenthaler, Mossi Raz, Dr. Ishai Menuchin, Dr. David Senesh and Dr. Ayala Greenberg.
They said that the ad was designed to slander a minority group, the Arab population in Israel, turning the Jewish majority against it. The petitioners claimed that the ad's message was "misleading the public as to the status of human rights in a democratic state."
Otzma Leisrael MKs Aryeh Eldad and Michael Ben Ari claimed that the caption was not a racist remark. The two invoked Yisrael Beiteinu's campaign slogan in the previous election, which said "No loyalty, no citizenship."
Rubinstein, however, decided to ban the ad. "From my point of view, the ad is a publication that without a doubt will be interpreted as a racist message, even if its writers see it as a pure political message." Rubinstein noted the fact that the caption is directed solely at the Arab public, and as such is designed to portray it as a sector that is not loyal to the state. Rubinstein also added that "such a racist expression might hurt the feelings of Jews, which were, and regrettably still are, targets of racial prosecution around the world."
Eldad and Ben Ari said in response: "It's unreasonable that using one of the formal languages would be considered racist. This is a legitimate campaign. We intend to appeal the outrageous decision, which harms the freedom of expression."