In its campaign for Tel Aviv city council, the Likud party has adopted the same slogan it used in the 2015 national election: “It’s us or them.” But this time around, the campaign targets African migrants, Muslim residents of Jaffa and anti-occupation NGOs. The slogan appeared on ads put up around the city on Wednesday. The municipal elections will be held on October 30.
Among the Likud ads, which appear on billboards, minibuses and on social networks, are: “It’s us or them – The Hebrew city or the PLO,” “It’s us or them – The Hebrew city or the city of infiltrators” and “It’s us or them – Education for Zionism or Breaking the Silence in schools.”
In a video clip released as part of the local election campaign, Palestinian flags could be seen on the streets of Tel Aviv-Jaffa accompanied by the words: “Either us, Likud, which will leave Tel Aviv and Jaffa in Israel – or the pro-Palestinian parties that want an Islamic Jaffa and a country of infiltrators in the south.”
Deputy mayor of Tel Aviv, Arnon Giladi, heads the Likud slate. Giladi, who is the chairman of Igudan – the Dan Region Association for Environmental Infrastructure, was arrested in February on suspicion of fraud and breach of trust in the corruption scandal surrounding MK David Bitan (Likud).
“A fierce battle is being fought today over the nature and character of the city of Tel Aviv-Jaffa,” said Giladi. “The Likud movement in Tel Aviv is the only group that has been fighting for many years to preserve the Zionist character of the first Hebrew city.” Likud holds two of the 31 seats on the present city council.
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“Likud, is going with the tactics of the boss – incitement and division, it’s nothing new,” said mayoral candidate Assaf Harel, referring to Likud leader Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “What is surprising here is that in Tel Aviv, Likud sits in the coalition with [Mayor Ron] Huldai.” Harel, who is running on the joint Jewish-Arab list, Anachnu Ha’Ir (We are the City), accused the other parties in the coalition of ignoring such racist statements to remain in power and said his party would not join a coalition that includes those who incite.
Sikkuy, The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality, called on the attorney general to act against expressions of racism in the municipal election. “This type of discourse can strain relations between residents… while acting against it will … prevent physical violence against civilians,” the organization wrote in a letter to Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit.
The Young Guard of the Labor Party called the Likud campaign “racist incitement against the Arabs of Jaffa and the refugees.” They called on Netanyahu and Likud ministers and Knesset members to renounce the campaign and act to put an immediate end to it, warning “otherwise we will take legal action.”
In a letter, the Young Guard said the election campaign promotes racism and hatred of the other without offering solutions to the city’s problems, and called it a violation of the municipal elections law because it incites to racism.
Lisa Hanania, who is running for city council on the Jaffa List party, posted on Facebook: “We are already familiar with the politics of separation and intimidation from the prime minister, but on the municipal level – between residents, between neighbors – this is not how you run an election campaign... “It is not ‘Us or them’ – it is all of us together against racism, against separation, against the nation-state law, against conflict between neighbors, for equality, for a mixed city, for multiculturalism, for respectful discourse.” A spokesman for Giladi and Likud said: “The incitement of extremist left-wing groups will not stop the Likud movement from leading a campaign about the character of the city [to ensure] it remains the first Hebrew city and not become a city of infiltrators in the south and a Palestinian enclave in Jaffa. We are running a democratic campaign so that in our educational system [children] will learn on Memorial Day about the fallen of the Israel Defense Forces and not about the Palestinian Nakba,” said the spokesman, referring to what Palestinians call “the catastrophe” when more than 700,000 Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes during the 1947-49 Israeli War of Independence.