In Desperation, Shas Again Plays the Racist Card

They may have pulled their inciting ad against Russian immigrants, but that didn't stop Eli Yishai and his party from wielding a new video against African refugees.

Anshel Pfeffer
Anshel Pfeffer
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Anshel Pfeffer
Anshel Pfeffer

I haven't met many people over the last few days who admit to watching the campaign ads, but I suspect that they are a guilty pleasure (like sadomasochism) for many Israelis, not just me. At least one party still hopes that the televised propaganda can sway a few voters.

Shas pulled its scandalous and inciting ad against Russian immigrants after using it only twice last week and based its campaign instead on Aryeh Deri's outdated charisma and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's health. Neither of these seems to be helping the party very much in the polls and on Tuesday they tried the two other members of the party's leadership triumvirate. First it was Housing Minister Ariel Atiass who tried to convince us that he had built cheap flats in Modi'in for the general population, and not just in Haredi areas. And a new slogan – "Shas – Building the State."

But that was just a poor attempt. The real thing came next. The last card for Shas to play is Interior Minister Eli Yishai, still the party's nominal leader. Yishai has had this little video up his sleeve for months now, but Deri didn't allow him to use it, until now. In the ad Yishai takes credit for Shas being the only party "keeping our neighborhoods safe" from the African scourge. This is Yishai's famous eight-minute long "infiltrators" video which was somehow leaked onto the web last week on an unofficial website for Shas supporters and last night was suddenly deemed worthy of screening.

It is only a minute-long version of the full thing, but it has it all. Multitudes swarming across the border, mothers in south Tel Aviv afraid to let their daughters out after dark, a weird African supremacist claiming "this is the land of god, not Israel, not the white man" and CCTV footage of anonymous violence. The tagline: "Shas – Guarding the State." So far the only party to really have tried to make any capital over the African refugees (or "infiltrators," as they are often called by parts of the media and some parties), has been Likud Beiteinu, which regards building the new border fence with Egypt as one of its proudest achievements. Yishai has been the most virulent voice in government against the refugees, demanding their deportation and accusing them of spreading disease and crime. He wants some of the credit. This late in the game, the only way they feel they can get some is by playing low.

Shas' leaders claim they are not worried about the polls because the pollsters routinely underestimate their party's strength. But if they are resorting to this tactic, with only five days left until the election, they must be desperate.

African refugees sitting behind a border fence after they attempted to cross illegally from Egypt into Israel as Israeli soldiers stand guard near the border with Egypt.Credit: AP

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