Avigdor Liberman was forced Friday to remove a campaign ad by his Yisrael Beytenu party calling on ultra-Orthodox Israelis to enlist to the military, after coming under fire for including footage of a rabbi who had fought in the Six Day War in 1967.
Yisrael Beytenu has been focusing its campaign on criticizing the ultra-Orthodox community and presenting his party as right-wing and secular, after a disagreement over a law regulating the drafting of seminary students into the IDF prevented Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a coalition in the wake of the April elections. This led to another round of Israeli elections scheduled for September 17.
In the campaign spot published Friday morning, various photos of ultra-Orthodox men are seen with slogans such as: “We’re not demanding that you enlist to [elite commando unit] Sayeret Matkal, only that you enlist,” and “We’re not demanding that you work extra hours, only that you work.”
However, Facebook user Michaela Levi was outraged when she recognized one of the people in the clip as her grandfather Rabbi Elisha Levi, who served in the IDF in the 1960s and took part in the Six Day War against invading Arab armies.
“How ugly can this election cycle be?” she asked in a post. “This morning I saw the video Avigdor Liberman published. Probably without thinking too much about the people behind the photos, he allowed himself to drag my grandfather’s name through the mud… How do you allow yourselves to generalize like this?!
“My grandfather, who served and fought in the Six Day War, worked all his life in education and dedicated every free moment he had to volunteer work, and thousands of graduates of kindergartens and schools around Jerusalem can testify to that,” Levi added.
ליברמן גם אנחנו לא דורשים הרבה רק תבצע מה שאתה אומר
מזכיר לך משהו??? pic.twitter.com/KUzAu2V5Ki
— האיש המסתורי (@israel1Eli) July 26, 2019
Though ultra-Orthodox parties have largely adopted a strategy of ignoring Liberman, MK Ya’akov Margi of the Haredi Shas party responded in a strongly worded statement.
“Liberman incites and wants to tear the nation apart,” Margi said. “He shamelessly uses incitement techniques taken from dark periods of history and has the audacity to use the photo of Rabbi Elisha Levi, a Six Day War combat fighter. His sons and daughters served in the IDF and in national service, his grandsons and granddaughters today serve in the IDF and in national service.
“My friends and I in Shas carried and still carry the burden of absorbing you as a new immigrant — you and all the people in whose name you falsely speak. Change your campaign, you’re unreliable and your word is worthless.”
Yisrael Beytenu said in a statement that it had decided to “immediately” heed Levi’s request to remove the photo of her relative.