Widely condemned municipal election billboards from the national-religious Jewish Home party that used anti-Islam messaging to warn against Jewish-Arab intermingling were reportedly taken down in the central city of Ramle Wednesday after many of the posters were vandalized.
The campaign had been widely criticized as racist, with even the right-wing party’s national headquarters initially distancing itself from the billboards.
The advertisements featured a young woman in a black hijab — a traditional Muslim head-covering — against a background of two white candles and a wine cup, items traditionally used to mark the start of the Jewish Shabbat.
“Hundreds of cases of intermarriage in Ramle, and no one cares,” the posters declared. “Tomorrow it could be your daughter. Only a strong Jewish Home will maintain a Jewish Ramle.”
The CEO of street advertising company Zohar Hotzot told Haaretz that of the 40 billboards posted around the city, only a handful were untouched.
The Jewish home party in Ramla, a city which Jews and Muslims live together, launched a campaign for its city hall candidate: “This can be your daughter [if she marries a Muslim]”. Naftali Bennet, the party leader, is the minister of education (of Israel). pic.twitter.com/vz6U63zZK2
— Suleiman Maswadeh (@SuleimanMas1) October 16, 2018
“We received a call the night the signs were damaged,” said Zohar Cohen. “They told us to come and take them down before the remainder were also vandalized.”
Cohen did not clarify who told them to take down the billboards. There was no report of damage filed with police, and the Jewish Home party apparently did not comment on the matter.
The move was celebrated by some on Twitter, with before and after pictures posted by the Act Arab organization which works to counter incitement, with the phrase “we won.”
תגידו, יש מצב שניצחנו?
כל הכבוד לכל מי שתרם להישג זה. הישג קטן, אך מתוק וחשוב!!
צילם לפני: דימטרי שאהין
צילמה אחרי: חורייה סעדי pic.twitter.com/rXMBPZtzdb
— Act (@ActArab) October 17, 2018
The issue of interfaith marriage grabbed headlines recently following the wedding of well-known Arab Israeli news anchor Lucy Aharish and Jewish actor Tsahi Halevi, star of international TV hit “Fauda.”
Opposition MK Neven Abu Rahmoun of the Joint (Arab) List faction had said she would ask the attorney general to ban the Jewish Home posters in the city of Ramle, where some 20% of the population is Arab.
“It seems that for certain parties, incitement is the only tool for persuasion,” Rahmoun tweeted. “The local election period is contaminated with that same incitement that the government encourages, and to my great regret, it is not surprising.”
The lawmaker pointed to a Likud party municipal campaign in the Tel Aviv area which targeted Arabs, leftists and African asylum seekers and was condemned by rights groups as well as Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai.
The Jewish Home, she wrote, “is using racist messages, incitement and fear to advance itself in the Ramle municipal elections, a city in which more than 20% of the residents are Arabs.”
Tag Meir, an anti-racism activism group, issued a statement condemning the posters and asked, “How would we respond to a notice against Jews which was published in Poland or Hungary?”
The billboards were the latest in a series of controversial campaign ploys by various parties running in nationwide municipal elections on October 30.
Also last week, a candidate for the Ashdod municipal council released a campaign video that imagines what would happen if secular residents do not vote and ultra-Orthodox Jews take over the city. Eli Nacht insisted that the video was intended merely as satire, but others accused him of incitement against the city’s ultra-Orthodox community.
In August, the Jerusalem branch of the Jewish Home party was widely criticized after campaign posters appeared in the capital warning of ultra-Orthodox influence in city hall by photoshopping Haredi garb on three mayoral candidates.
Among those to condemn the posters as anti-ultra-Orthodox was the main office of the Jewish Home party, which is led by Education Minister Naftali Bennett, an Orthodox Jew.
Stuart Winer contributed to this report.