An Israeli public relations firm took credit Wednesday for placing hidden cameras at polling stations in Arab towns on Election Day, and boasted that it was responsible for reduced turnout among Arab Israeli voters.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party admitted Tuesday it was behind the deployment of a reported 1,200 hidden cameras, which officials said were designed to counter what the party claimed were widespread voter irregularities in areas at high risk of voter fraud.
Following the revelation, the Central Elections Committee said filming at polling stations was a violation of election law, while Arab parties said the cameras were meant to intimidate Arab citizens and prevent them from voting.
In a post on its Facebook page, PR agency Kaizler Inbar said it organized the placement of the cameras.
“After a long preparation period, an amazing logistical arrangement, and deep and close cooperation with the best people in Likud, we launched an operation that decisively contributed to one of the most important achievements in the national [right-wing] camp: ‘Integrity’ in the Arab sector,” the post said.
Kaizler Inbar directly linked the campaign to the low voter turnout this election among Arab Israelis, bragging it was “the lowest that was seen in recent years!”
The firm also thanked the activists it dispatched to polling stations.
“You — who ‘earned’ the most violent threats, near-lynchings and police questioning under caution for a few hours and didn’t for a moment give up the important task assigned to you — you are the true great winners,” it said.
ששש… אל תגלו לאף אחד. זה היינו אנחנו.ראיתם את הכתבות בתקשורת שהבעירו את השטח ביום הבחירות? אלו שסיפרו על מצלמות…
According to the Kan public broadcaster, police have opened an investigation into the camera activity.
Videos posted online on Tuesday appeared to show Likud activists being confronted by other observers and the police over small cameras concealed on their person. In one of the videos, a young man with a hidden camera confronted at a polling station said he was acting on behalf of “my employers… Likud.”
According to reports, some 1,200 concealed cameras were found at polling stations in Nazareth, Sakhnin, Majd al-Krum, Tamra, Taybe and Rahat, towns with majority Arab populations. A handful of cameras were also discovered in ultra-Orthodox ballot stations.
Some of the cameras were hidden on the activists and observers from the party, and some were said to be installed in the polling stations.
The Arab-majority party Hadash-Ta’al submitted a complaint about the hidden cameras to the Central Elections Committee, which determined that the recording devices violated Israeli election laws.
Netanyahu and the Likud party’s attorney defended the surveillance, saying the measure was necessary to prevent widespread voter fraud.
“There should be cameras everywhere, not hidden ones,” Netanyahu told reporters after casting his ballot in Jerusalem.
Likud lawyer Kobi Matza insisted to Kan that the portable cameras were not concealed, and therefore not illegal under Israeli election laws.
“The cameras were not hidden, they were out in the open, and were in places where there is a high suspicion of fraud,” he said in an interview. “I get reports from all over the country that our representatives are being kicked out of polling stations in Arab areas.
“The problem is with those people in the Arab sector,” he added. “The cameras were intended to preserve the integrity of the vote.”
Netanyahu was accused of racism after the previous elections in 2015, when on the day of the vote, in an effort to galvanize right-wing Israelis, he published a video warning that Arabs were “voting in droves” with the help of left-wing organizations.