Israeli TV Authority Bans Advert for Backing Gay Marriage and Arabic Language

Television and radio authority says messages on political or social matters that are in 'public dispute' cannot be shown, after refusing to air PSA by human rights group. ACRI threatens to go to court.

Itay Stern
Itay Stern
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The ad entitled "Human Rights: Because without I'm not Equal," which was banned by the Second TeleviCredit: YouTube
Itay Stern
Itay Stern

A public service announcement from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel has been banned from television because of its message of support for gay marriage.

The Second Authority for Television and Radio, the public body that supervises Israel's commercial television and radio stations, banned the PSA, which is entitled "Human Rights: Because without I'm not Equal."

The minute-long ad includes appearances by such well-known Israeli celebrities as model and actress Galit Gutmann, former Miss Israel Titi Aynow, social activist Daphni Leef and others.

In the ad, Aynow, who is of Ethiopian origin, says: "The right to choose and marry whoever I want." Her words are immediately followed by Adir Steiner, an LGBT activist who participated in the legal battle for the rights of same-sex couples, saying: "Even if I'm gay."

The Second Authority banned the ad due to this sentence, stating that the law governing commercial television states the broadcaster will not broadcast any advertising that has a message on a "political, social, public or economic matter" that is in "public dispute."

The Second Authority says the statement made in the ad by Mira Awad, an Israeli Arab singer and actress ("It is permitted to speak Arabic without fear"), is also problematic and prevents the ad from being aired.

Dan Yakir, the chief legal counsel of the ACRI, told Haaretz on Wednesday that "in 2016, equality for the LGBT community and the right to speak Arabic are not matters under dispute. The state itself recognizes marriages of same-sex couples who married overseas, and Arabic is an official language in Israel, so the reason for the ban is not at all clear."

Steiner says his organization was shocked by the ban. He said that while the struggle for human rights sometimes raises controversies, there is still wall-to-wall agreement that human rights are a basic component of Israeli democracy.

"Our clip was intended to raise the awareness of human rights, equality, dignity and freedom, and if an important and central body such as the Second Authority bans it, it seems we still have a great amount of work [remaining]," said Steiner.

Yakir sent a letter on behalf of the ACRI to the Second Authority's legal advisor saying that the Authority's interpretation of the regulations severely harms freedom of expression. The letter states that this case is not just a matter of commercial freedom of expression but also of political speech, which has received especially broad protection in Supreme Court decisions.

Yakir wrote that in such a divided society as Israel, almost no issue is not under public dispute, but there are some matters that are part of the foundation of the society's existence. He added that it is forbidden to surrender to the disputes concerning them and choke off the debate about them.

If the Second Authority does not change its decision, the ACRI will go to court, says Yakir.

The Second Authority has yet to respond on the matter.

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