Shas Defends Message, Extends Broadcast of Controversial Ad
Air time for a Shas television ad, which received complaints based on claims that the ad is racist and demeaning towards Russian immigrants, was extended on Wednesday, as the leaders of Shas dismissed the appeals of Central Election Commission Chair, Elyakim Rubinstein, to remove the spot.
The ad in question, which aired Tuesday night and will air again today, depicted a wedding ceremony between an Israeli and a Russian immigrant. The wedding was put on hold as the couple waited for a fake conversion certificate to be faxed to the bride.
After some confusion about whether or not the ad would be removed, Shas issued the following clarification: "We have not decided to remove the ad. The campaign was to be aired yesterday, and on the contrary, because of comments made, we decided to broadcast the ad today as well. The judge turned to us and we made it clear to him that it will be broadcast today, and in the following days we have prepared other ads to be broadcast. "
Party leaders Eli Yishai and Aryeh Deri explained to the Elections Committee that the broadcast was not directed against any specific group or community but was rather "intended to convey a message about the danger to the country's Jewish identity due to fictitious conversions and mixed marriages."
MK Nino Absedze of the Labor party, who was born in the Soviet Union, filed a complaint with the CEC calling the ad "racist" and "demeaning to Russian immigrants”.
"To my astonishment, I saw that this ad is racist and portrays the immigrant population in a ridiculous light" wrote Abesadze in her petition. She added that it is difficult to believe that a party in Israel in this age can present in, "such a simplistic way an issue that is so painful and complex."
Amid the outcry, Shas stood by the ad, saying it was not aimed at one specific group but rather was a way to convey a much larger message about current risks to Israel's Jewish identity. "The television spot did not say one bad word about anyone. Intermarriage and fictitious conversions can lead to assimilation and loss of the Jewish identity of the state. A country which fights against assimilation abroad cannot allow assimilation from within," said Shas.
"The ad was intended to illustrate the unbearable ease with which one can perform marriages under the law that Lieberman, one of the leaders of Likud Beytenu, tried to promote," said the party. "In light of the positive responses to the ad among former Likud voters we will continue to air the ad tomorrow as well."
Yisrael Beytenu responded to the ad, calling it an incitement to racism and inappropriate. "Shas has lost their marbles. This is not a Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d's name) , but rather a Chilul Hashem (desecration)," the party said in a statement.
"Yisrael Beytenu, in contrast to Shas, has always been in favor of Judaism without the business end of it, Judaism without politicians and middlemen which has transformed Judaism into a source of personal power and livelihood," the statement read, adding that Yisrael Beytenu has contributed more to Judaism than Shas "ever has".
The ad will continue to air today in its intended spot.