Shas to Shelve Controversial 'Conversion Star' Campaign Ad

Central Election Committee chair and Shas agree that the ad, which has been called racist and offensive to Russians, will air for the last time on Wednesday night.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Central Election Committee chair Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein and Shas have agreed that the party would shelve the controversial “conversion star” campaign ad immediately after its broadcast Wednesday evening, during the campaign ads cluster on television.

“I thought that in and of itself, a generalized sense of hurt is possible, which is best avoided insofar as is possible,” Rubinstein told Shas.

The ad came before the committee following two objections immediately after the clip aired on Wednesday: one from MK Nino Abesadze, head of the Labor Party ticket’s immigrants campaign team, and the second from the Unger family of Ashdod claiming this is a racist ad ridiculing the immigrant public. Shas claimed they weren’t intending to broadcast the clip more than twice and in the coming days they intend to broadcast different clips on the same issue.

The clip, which is aimed against Yisrael Beiteinu, ultimately might well increase support for that party because it sharpens the conflicts between that party and Shas on issues of civil marriage and conversion during this past term.

“Shas is in a tizzy that has sent it tumbling downhill into incitement and racism against entire parts of the population, “stated a Yisrel Beiteinu press release.

"The realization among the heads of Shas that on the day after the election the inevitable struggle will take place there, at the culmination of which Shas will fall apart even before the end of the next Knesset term, is dragging it into doing things that are disgracing the party and its leaders. This isn’t a matter of sanctifying the name of God but rather a matter of blasphemy. In contrast to Shas, Yisrael Beiteinu has always been in favor of a Judaism without political wheeling and dealing, Judaism, net, without factotums and intermediaries who have transformed Judaism into a source of personal power and a livelihood.

Yisrael Beiteinu, in its activity for the conversion of those defined as non-Jews, has contributed to the unity of the nation more than Shas has ever contributed and we will continue to act towards this end until the perfect and whole solution is achieved for those in need of it.”

"It's hard to believe that in Israel in 2013, such a complex and painful topic could be presented in such a simplistic way, and a platform be given to such shadowy opinions at the taxpayer's expense," Abesadze said on Wednesday.

Those in the center-left were quick to attack the broadcast, and more than once fell themselves into the trap of stereotyping those they preached against.

Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party, accused Shas of racism, but on the other hand also evoked a series of negative images of Shas's voters. Lapid claimed the broadcast was "a characteristic example of a shadowy Judaism that preaches hate."

"How dare they insult immigrants from the former Soviet Union?" he asked. "How do those who don't serve in the army dare to slander those who enlist high percentages of their children into the IDF – who protect their lives? How can those who have turned idleness into a religion dare to insult hardworking Israeli citizens whose tax money funds yeshiva students? This is not Judaism, it is simple racism, and Yesh Atid will fight against any attempt to insult immigrants. They are our brothers."

Hatnuah head Tzipi Livni wrote on her Facebook page that the ad was "outrageous." She said: "when I saw it, I remembered a meeting I held at a conversion base in the army and one of the soldiers in the process of converting who told me: 'If I am killed in the army I want to be buried next to my friends, and if I marry I want to marry like them.' There are about 300,000 immigrants in Israel who live, serve, and work with us, who contribute to society and are forced to undergo tough conversion procedures despite the fact that Halakha allows otherwise."

In response to the demand to disqualify the "dial star for conversion" campaign spot, Shas said: "The broadcast doesn't say a bad word about anyone. Intermarriage and fictitious conversions can lead to assimilation and the loss of the state's Jewish identity. A country fighting against mixed marriages abroad cannot allow them to occur on its soil."

According to Shas, their intension was "to illustrate the unbearable ease with which mixed marriages can be performed under the law that Lieberman, one of the leaders of Likud-Beiteinu, tried to advance."

Shas added that this broadcast is also meant to show the danger of the formation of a Likud- Beiteinu-Lapid-Livni coalition, which they say would result in harm to the Jewish identity of the state of Israel, "in the style of the Likud-Lapid 2003 coalition."

An image from the Shas ad.Credit: Screen shot
Yishai, Deri and Atias at the Shas conference in Jerusalem, December 4, 2012. Credit: Emil Salman

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