Shas AD
Shas ADScreenShot

After originally defending its controversial TV ad which depicted Russian immigrants as non-Jews who did not convert according to halakha, Shas agreed on Wednesday evening to pull the ad. The ad will not air as of Thursday.

MK Nino Abesadze of the Labor party, who was born in the Soviet Union, filed a complaint with the Central Elections Committee calling the ad "racist" and "demeaning to Russian immigrants”.

The ad shows a couple on their wedding day, with the Russian bride receiving a faxed confirmation of her conversion after calling a "conversion hotline".

The bride is shown saying that the fax machine with which the conversion certificate is received was sent as a wedding gift by "Beytenu", a reference to Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beytenu party, which has sought to moderate the Israeli rabbinate.

Following the complaints over the ad, Judge Elyakim Rubinstein who chairs the Central Elections Committee contacted Shas, who agreed to pull the ad for "the sake of peace."

"Following my request," said Rubinstein, "Shas agreed for the sake of peace to pull the ad, after today's broadcast in which the ad had already been scheduled. The ad will not appear again, therefore, after today."

Earlier, Shas 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."

The Yisrael Beytenu party, meanwhile, slammed Shas over the ad on Wednesday, saying that "Shas is losing its marbles and is deteriorating towards incitement and racism against entire sectors. The recognition among the leaders of Shas that day after the election the internal struggle will be inevitable and will eventually lead to the party's falling apart even before the end of the term of the next Knesset, is dragging it towards actions which shame the party and its leaders."

Yisrael Beytenu accused Shas of "blasphemy" by airing the ad, adding that "Yisrael Beytenu, unlike Shas, has always been in favor of Judaism without public activity and of Judaism without politicians and middlemen who have turned Judaism into their source of personal power and livelihood. Yisrael Beytenu, through its actions towards conversions for non-Jews, has contributed to Judaism and to unity of the people more than Shas has ever contributed and we will continue to do so until a full and complete solution for those who need it is achieved."

MK Abesadze welcomed the decision to pull the ad and said, "I welcome the rapid and decisive action of the Chairman of the Central Election Committee, Judge Elyakim Rubinstein, regarding the invalidation of the election ad by Shas, which led to the fact that as of tomorrow the ad in question will be removed and thrown in the trash."

MK Yuval Zellner (Kadima) also welcomed the pulling of the ad, which he termed "offensive and racist."

"It's sad that in Israel of 2013 we see such an offensive ad against the immigrant community, whose contribution to Israeli society goes above and beyond being an educated, hard-working public which shares the security burden," said Zellner.