Israeli Billboard Firm Refuses Ad for Joint Palestinian-Israeli Memorial Service

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Joint Israeli-Palestinian memorial service, 2019.
Joint Israeli-Palestinian memorial service, 2019.Credit: David Bachar
Bar Peleg
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An Israeli company providing outdoor advertising has refused to advertise a joint Israeli-Palestinian memorial service, calling it a controversial event that can cause the company financial damage.

“This can cause me losses I can’t even contemplate,” says CTV’s CEO Eilon Rosman in conversation with the Combatants for Peace movement, which produces the joint annual ceremony.

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Human rights lawyer Itay Mack, who represents the movement, appealed to the CEO and told him that the company’s refusal is in violation of the law against discrimination between products.

Following Mack’s letter to Rosman and an appeal to the company by Haaretz, the CEO said that this was a controversial issue, requiring the approval of the Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan municipalities before advertising may proceed in those cities.

The Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality refuted this claim, saying it wasn’t their job to approve the content of signs posted by private companies, which therefore did not need its approval. “The freedom of expression guarantees any advertising other than in exceptional cases where there is a risk of seriously offending public sensibilities or the values of society and state,” a city official said.

The movement proposed to post on 23 digital street screens messages in Hebrew and Arabic, saying: “We refuse to give in to incitement, we refuse to fight; we oppose the occupation and choose to remember together, even on the most difficult day,” along with details about the event, which this year will be streamed on the internet. Yonatan Gher, the executive director of Combatants for Peace, told Haaretz that they would not accept CTV’s refusal.

“Just as secular society in Israel clarified to commercial companies that it was illegitimate to exclude women or members of the LGBTQ community, we will clarify that the exclusion of Palestinian society and Arabic from public spaces is unacceptable.”

Initially, there was an agreement on the costs of advertising, but last Thursday CTV’s deputy director for sales, Keren Hazan, informed the event producers that Rosman had decided to refuse to advertise it. In a phone conversation between Rosman, Gher and another member of the movement, Yael Lotan, Rosman said such a campaign would cause him financial harm.

“I don’t look for risks, certainly not commercial ones, which is why I didn’t approve this campaign. He later explained he had no problem with the ceremony, but that this was a controversial issue. “I’m not responsible for it, but it’s there. Since we’re a commercial company that makes its living through advertising and from people who see these posters, posters that create mixed reactions, and I don’t want to be in that situation.”

Spokesmen for Combatants for Peace asked why such advertisements were unacceptable to Rosman. He replied that he didn’t want to be a part of this argument. “As someone once said, no one is sorry about an interview he never gave. It’s the same here. I don’t want to start something and then have to explain. That’s the reason, I don’t have anything against anyone in particular.”

When Gher asked why he had posted political ads during the election campaign, Rosman said that these were different. “We followed the election rules during the election campaign. It’s not difficult to understand why from a commercial perspective this present case is problematic.”

Last Friday, Mack sent a letter to Rosman and Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai, asking the city to revoke CTV’s license for posting signs, arguing wrongful discrimination and political censorship on the company’s part. He added that the courts had ruled it is discriminatory to refuse to supply a product or service based on the religious beliefs of a business owner. “This refusal is also a breach of confidence relating to the city, which gave its permission to setting up digital screens in the streets not in order to employ political censorship,” Mack said. “The company’s conduct sharply contravenes the pluralistic and liberal values of the municipality and of most of the city’s residents.”

The company responded on Monday: “Due to the great sensitivity of the events on that day, we request the city’s approval for posting these signs, since they may offend members of the public. Rosman said that if such approval is given, progress can be made regarding the deployment of the signs.

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