Israeli Elections

Shas Pulls Offensive Campaign Ad

Elisheva Goldberg on how Shas pulled an offensive ad, and complaints from another controversial Israeli party.

The religious-nationalist Israeli party Shas is pulling their bizarre and offensive campaign video after only two days of airtime, apparently in compliance with a decision by Elyakim Rubenstein, the Chairman of the Central Election Committee and Supreme Court Justice. The ad—which basically sends the message that you won't know whether or not you're marrying a shiksa unless you vote Shas—was so offensive that Shlomo Molla, a Kadima MK no less, called on Russian Yisrael Beiteinu members who immigrated to Israel to denounce Shas and declare that they would refuse to sit in a coalition government with them. The thing is: Yisrael Beiteinu isn't exactly the most inclusive party either.

The Shas ad was clearly a low blow at Yisrael Betieinu; Shas's assumption being that if they appeared to be the guardians of the Jewish tradition (they literally write that as their slogan at the end of the video), they would be able to grab some voters from the Likud who are scared of the Beiberman coalition for religious reasons.

Shas—indeed, the ultra-Orthodox more broadly—have always been the keepers of the conversion keys and therefore the natural enemies of Russian atheists who immigrated to Israel by the tens of thousands after the release of Soviet Jewry. And finally, this afternoon, hours after the ad was pulled, Yisrael Beiteinu MK Sofa Landver made a statement:

Shas's racist propaganda was highly predictable… The Shas leadership has lots its compass and its conscious.. and the party tries time and time again to make political capital through hatred of the other and to blame its failures on the immigrant community which has, for a long time, been a tool for societal progress in all fields including the security and economy of the country.

And yet I wonder if these Yisrael Beiteinu MKs see the irony. An accusation of racism coming from a party who's election slogan in 2009 read "no loyalty, no citizenship." From a party who's leader attempted to pass a bill that would require Israelis to sign a loyalty oath or have their citizenship revoked. Yisrael Beiteinu MKs are not shy in sharing that they believe Israeli Arabs are "likely to serve as terrorist agents on behalf of the Palestinian Authority." And this is not the first time they've been attacked by another minority party in the Knesset.

So when Yisrael Beiteinu calls the ultra-Orthodox racist for telling them that their constituents are less than trustworthy, we would do well to take a quick peek at their record as well.