Israeli Election Panel Rules anti-LGBT Campaign Ads Be Allowed to Run

The ads, which companies refused to publish, read: 'Pride and buying children, or my son marrying a woman,' and 'Reform, or my grandson remaining Jewish'

A Noam campaign billboard reading "'Pride' and buying children or that my son will marry a woman, Israel chooses to be normal" above Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv, July 18, 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

Advertising companies have to run the anti-gay campaign ads created by the ultra-Orthodox-Zionist Noam party, the acting chairman of the Central Elections Committee Neal Hendel ruled Tuesday.

Hendel determined that in their decision not to run Noam ads, some billboard companies had derogated from equality and freedom of expression, and caused "effective harm to [Noam's] ability to fully publicize their stances in comparison to other parties."

Noam had requested to place billboards in Jerusalem and run ads on buses with slogans such as “Pride and buying children, or my son marrying a woman”; “Pride and buying children, or my grandson remaining Jewish – Israel chooses to be normal” and “Reform [Jews], or my grandson remaining Jewish – Israel chooses to be normal.”

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The advertising companies refused to run the ads on the grounds that "they could be hurtful to whole communities" due to their implications that the LGBT community and Reform Jews are abnormal, and that same-sex couples traffic in children.

Noam appealed to the Central Elections Committee, arguing that the companies violated election laws. Hendel ruled that anybody defined as an “advertising marketer” who decides to run campaign ads could not discriminate against specific candidates.

“An advertising marketer may not refuse to publish political advertisements based on their content,” ruled Hendel, excepting cases where it is forbidden by law. He also said that in this case, the companies were not arguing that Noam’s ads were illegal, just "offensive to and scornful of certain communities."

Hendel, a Supreme Court judge, added that his ruling does not make any statement about the legality of the Noam ads, but "merely determines that it was not a clear-cut case" of illegal advertising. He added that the attorney general agreed that the campaign should be run on the grounds that the companies should treat the parties equally, irrespective of the content of the advertisements, unless it clearly violates the law.

Noam stated that the Central Elections Committee had "accepted the Noam party's position in full and directed the advertisers to put up Noam's campaign ads immediately," in addition to Hendel imposing “heavy legal fees” on the advertisement companies. The party added that it regrets the long span of time that passed between filing the motion and implementing the decision, but that it is "satisfied with the final outcome."

Elon Essar, a lawyer representing advertising companies Knaan Media and Y. Mor, stated that the decision means the companies are forced to run ads claiming that "the LGBT community is involved in 'buying children' and that any family not composed of a mother and a father is abnormal."

Noam was founded by Rabbi Zvi Yisrael Thau, who runs the Har Hamor Yeshiva. The party's chief concern is the fight against LGBT rights, on the grounds that they threaten the values of the "Jewish family," which they say consists of heterosexual parents and their biological children.