The controversial election advertisements posted by Habayit Hayehudi in Ramle, warning against intermarriage, were removed on Wednesday after most of them were vandalized.
Only a handful of the 40 billboards that went up around town the day before remained intact, Zion Cohen, director of Zohar Outdoor advertising company, told Haaretz. The advertisements for the upcoming municipal election in this mixed Jewish-Arab city warned against the dangers of marriage between Jews and Arabs.
“We got a call during the night that they were smashing the signs and that we should take them down before they smash everything,” said Cohen. “There’s no insurance for this type of thing, so we just tried to rescue the merchandise as quickly as possible.
“We said in advance that we don’t intervene in politics and that we aren’t responsible [for the content]. We’re given posters and we put them up. The only ones who can order that posters be taken down is the municipality,” said Cohen.
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The police received no complaints about the signs. Habayit Hayehudi did not respond to the news of the removal of the signs.
The posters that were removed bore the slogan “Tomorrow it could be your daughter,” next to a photograph of a woman wearing a hijab. The posters also claimed in Ramle there are “hundreds of cases of assimilation a year” and that Habayit Hayehudi’s municipal roster will “safeguard a Jewish Ramle.”
Many slammed the campaign as racist and warned that it risked disrupting relations between Jews and Arabs in the city.
Artist Zeev Engelmayer came out costumed as his cartoon character Shoshke and covered the signs with illustrated posters titled “The daughters of Ramle.”
“When I was going around I saw posters that had been vandalized,” he said. “This generated real anger among residents. I am not harming the signs but it would behoove the sign companies to know that racist ads that fan hatred create an effect that comes back like a boomerang to hurt them as well. They shouldn’t cooperate with this.”
Sapir Slutzky Amran, a resident of Tel Aviv’s Hatikva neighborhood, hung her own protest posters over the Habayit Hayehudi ones; hers bore the face of Naftali Bennett, Habayit Hayehud’s chairman, and read, “Tomorrow this could be your son.” In a Facebook post, she wrote, “Habayit Hayehudi decided to warn the fathers of the Jewish daughters of Ramle against assimilation, God forbid, but we decided to explain the dangers of racism to Ramle residents.”
“This city is known for the good relations between Jews and Arabs over the years. This deepens the rift and the gap, it’s very dangerous,” said Gassan Manier, who is running for city council.
Even after the posters were removed, residents remained upset. Jihan Abu Sirav, a resident of Ramle’s Old City, said, “It hurt us. We are one country and this is unacceptable to me and to all the neighbors here. It offended anyone who wears a hijab.
“Friends of mine from all over the country want to know what happened in Ramle and I have no words. Nothing like this has ever happened. If I could have gone to smash the signs with them, I would have. It’s shameful.”
Zehaya, another Old City resident, said news of the posters spread very quickly. “There were 200 Jews at my son’s wedding. The prime minister should come here to learn how to live together. He should go to the market and see everyone living together. We didn’t know there was such racism in Ramle.”
Mohammed Jafari, a local clergyman, said, “This doesn’t suit our city. That’s why there was anger. People are together 70 years and suddenly people come and insult our religion? [Habayit Hayehudi] is a small party that wants to create dissent and cause trouble.”
MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) sent a letter to Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit on Wednesday demanding that parties spreading racist messages be prosecuted or even disqualified.
“There is no need to elaborate on the severity of this phenomenon and the serious damage it causes to the delicate fabric of relations between Jews and Arabs in general, and in the mixed cities in particular. Such racist and inflammatory messages are invalid and illegal and require immediate and decisive intervention by the attorney general to block their continued dissemination,” he wrote, referring to both the Ramle ads and ads posted by Likud two weeks ago in Tel Aviv proclaiming “It’s us or them.”
A petition Meretz submitted to the High Court of Justice was not accepted because there were required details missing, but the Central Elections Committee reported that on Wednesday the Coalition Against Racism in Israel filed a complaint against the ads. It was to be examined by Justice Hanan Melcer, chairman of the Central Elections Committee.