Israel's Election Watchdog Forces ultra-Orthodox City to Display Women on Campaign Ads

Meretz and the Israel Women’s Network sued the city after it banned an election poster featuring Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg

Jonathan Lis
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Election campaign billboard in Bnei Brak, Israel, January 2019.
Election campaign billboard in Bnei Brak, Israel, January 2019. Credit: Moti Milrod
Jonathan Lis

Chairman of the Central Election Committee on Wednesday determined it is dicriminatory for the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak to remove women from election campaigns.

Justice Hanan Melcer, who is also a Supreme Court justice, slapped 7,500 shekels ($2,000) in legal costs on the Bnei Brak municipality on behalf of the Meretz party and Israel Women’s Network, who had sued the city after it banned an election poster featuring Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg.

Melcer noted that his ruling had been handed down on Purim eve: “It scarcely needs mention that this holiday stresses the role and importance of women, and the need to respect them and protect their status. For the wise, a hint suffices.”

>> What the radicalization of Israel's ultra-Orthodox community looks like from the inside

Not one female face has appeared on campaign materials disseminated in Bnei Brak. For instance, Tzipi Livni’s picture was removed from billboards calling on the left and center parties to merge.

Hutzot Zahav, the ad agency handling Bnei Brak explained that the people behind the campaign preferred to avoid a provocation. Said people denied any such thing, saying the municipality had refused to allow billboards with Livni’s face on them. A representative of Hutzot Zahav then admitted that the company and the city have a policy according to which female faces shall not appear on billboards in the city.

Michal Gera Margaliot, a lawyer who heads the Women’s Network, said that the intention behind removing women from promotional material is to erase the image, voice and influence of women in general. Israeli law prohibits discrimination against women and removal of their images form the public space.

Meretz stated that it will be present wherever rights are trampled. “We will continue to fight for Israel’s future and stand firmly against anyone trying to take back the country by centuries.” It will take on racists, chauvinists and religious coercion, Meretz stated.

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