Justice minister defends ‘fascism’ spot, dismisses ‘bitter’ critics

Justice minister defends ‘fascism’ spot, dismisses ‘bitter’ critics

After mock perfume spot slammed in Israel and overseas, New Right co-chair says it was an ‘excellently written Purim video,’ but admits she initially refused to do it

New Right co-chair Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked in a satirical campaign ad, released on March 18, 2019, that mocks left-wing fears of her judicial reform proposals. (Twitter screen capture)
New Right co-chair Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked in a satirical campaign ad, released on March 18, 2019, that mocks left-wing fears of her judicial reform proposals. (Twitter screen capture)

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked on Tuesday dismissed the controversy caused in Israel and abroad by her New Right party’s campaign video featuring her as a model advertising a perfume called “Fascism,” saying she knew it would prompt reactions, but “the message passed.”

The satirical campaign ad released Monday mocks left-wing concerns that the party seeks to weaken Israel’s judiciary. The faux perfume ad posed Shaked, a co-chair of New Right, as its sultry model, and an affected, whispering narrator listing Shaked’s goals — all under the pretense that the perfume is called “Fascism, by Ayelet Shaked.”

“A judicial revolution,” the narrator whispers, “scaling back [judicial] activism … judicial appointments … governance … separation of powers … reining in the High Court….”

Then, 30 seconds into the 44-second spot, Shaked picks up the perfume bottle and sprays it in the air. The soft music cuts out and, raising her eyebrows, she quips in her signature blunt tone, “To me, it smells like democracy.”

Unlike most Israeli campaign ads in the upcoming Knesset elections, the video received attention and criticism also outside Israel, where many viewed it as an admission by the justice minister of supporting fascist ideology, lacking the intra-Israeli context to get the intended irony.

“It is a nice clip aimed at the liberal left that has for years called me a fascist but keeps losing the elections,” Shaked told Channel 13 on Tuesday evening. “I think I spoke to them in their language. I would like to hope they will stop calling me fascist after the video.”

“I saw in international media that the video has gone overseas,” she also commented. “I think it’s a clip with a great degree of humor and cynicism. I think we need to shirk political correctness and that the message has been delivered. From what I see, most of the public understood the humor and irony — only a few bitter people didn’t.”

Among those who shared the clip was the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) anti-Israel campaign, which posted a screenshot on Twitter and commented: “You can’t make this stuff up!”

In response, Shaked said: “I am definitely not going to let them dictate my actions. They will take anything good and nice in this country and try to tarnish it.

“It was a Purim video with lots of humor,” she said, referring to the upcoming Jewish festival. “It was excellently written and sharp.”

Some critics said the video objectified Shaked by promoting her looks rather than her ideology and actions, but Shaked dismissed the criticism, saying there was “no objectification in the clip.”

“I am a strong woman, justice minister and chairwoman of a party with 50 percent women on its election slate and four women in the top six. I don’t remember the left crying out when I was horribly objectified in [satire TV show] Eretz Nehederet,” she said.

“The responses to the clip didn’t surprise me,” Shaked continued. “I knew there would be varied reactions. When I was presented with the idea for the first time I rejected it, I told my team: ‘Are you crazy? I’m the justice minister.’ But they said, ‘Let’s film it and then decide.'”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett right, and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked hold a press conference of the New Right Political party, in Tel Aviv on March 17, 2019. (Flash90)

New Right has based a great deal of its election campaign on the achievements of Shaked in pressing for the appointments of more conservative judges to Israel’s Supreme Court and pushing for reforms of the judicial branch.

The party has decided to make Shaked, its No. 2 and co-chair, the frontwoman of the campaign following a plunge in polls — to about six seats of late — and after determining that she is far more popular than party leader Naftali Bennett, the Kan public broadcaster reported Wednesday.

New Right confirmed some aspects of the report.

“We are highlighting Ayelet Shaked because she is the best justice minister in Israel’s history, and the main election question is whether she will be able to get four more years to complete the second half of her judicial revolution,” it said.

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