Israeli Court Has to Order Paper to Accept Campaign Ads From Female Candidates

It’s election day in Israel and the courts on Friday had to order several Haredi newspapers to accept campaign print ads from a party that fields female candidates. Of course, now it’s too late because the newspapers are appealing that ruling.

The Lod District Court has ordered Yated Ne’eman, the highest-circulating haredi daily newspaper, to publish an election campaign advertisement from U’bezchutan, a party seeking the haredi women’s vote.

The decision was made on Friday, but the newspaper has appealed, casting into doubt whether or not it will be forced to print the ad before election day on Tuesday. An appeal hearing has yet to be scheduled.

U’bezchutan, led by Ruth Colian, has objected to the lack of any women on any of the electoral lists of the haredi parties – Shas, United Torah Judaism and Yahad – saying the needs and concerns of haredi women are not being addressed by the male MKs in the different ultra-Orthodox parties.

Colian, therefore, has called on haredi women to vote for her party so they can receive appropriate political representation and, as part of her campaign, has sought to place election ads in various haredi newspapers and media outlets, including Yated Ne’eman, the mouthpiece of Degel Hatorah and Yom L’Yom, Shas’s paper.

However, U’bezchutan’s ads have been rejected by several haredi media outlets, including Yated Ne’eman, leading the party to sue the newspaper with the help of the Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women and the Center for Women’s Justice (CWJ) advocacy and lobbying groups.

“We are talking about a notice of a public nature specifically for women from the haredi sector, and which has not insignificant public importance, which is perhaps even enhanced due to the prohibition of discrimination and the principle of equality in elections,” said Judge Yaakov Shefser who presided over the case.

The judge rejected the argument of Yated’s defense team that such advertisements would offend the feelings of the paper’s readers, and said the refusal of Yated to publish U’bezchutan’s ads constituted “severe and irrevocable damage to the plaintiff, impeding her right to gain awareness among her target electorate and her right to equality, and possibly even her ability to be elected to Knesset.”

That the mere appearance of an ad for a female candidate would offend readers of a Haredi newspaper speaks volumes, don’t you think? It also underscores the need for more female candidates to run for office, regardless of their political party.

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  • Pierce R. Butler

    U’bezchutan? You betcha!

  •!/TabbyLavalamp Tabby Lavalamp

    Jewish? Christian? Muslim? The first thing to go for the fundamentalists of any religion are the rights of women. Seeing that there was no place for me was one of the first things to turn me against religion.

  • Modusoperandi

    Plus their comics page is awful. Nancy is better, though. Her strip is just a blank space.

  • Carl

    Man, this is a tough issue for me. I absolutely agree with your last paragraph, this is a horrible state of affairs. But having the government force a newspaper to print something the publisher doesn’t want to is also pretty rotten. I have no idea what the law or the media is like in Israel, but this is just bad all around.

  • fmitchell

    Carl @ 4

    It’s no different in principle from requiring that billboard companies accept ads from atheist groups, or that bakers provide cakes for gay weddings. If the publisher accepts advertising, they have to accommodate all customers (save the illegal or fraudulent).

    I suspect, though, that the Haredi voting bloc depends on only men voting, and moreover voting the party line. IIRC, the ultra-conservatives are part of the coalition government of anti-Palestinian, pro-settlement hardliners. It would be interesting if women voters could alter the composition of Parliament enough to give moderates and progressives the majority. Probably won’t happen, but one can dream.

  • flex

    Carl @4,

    It is similar to the Equal Time rule which applies to broadcast stations in the US. If a station sells a minute of time (or gives a minute of it’s time) to one political candidate, the station must allow other candidates who request it the same amount of access at the same price.

    This rule does not apply to documentaries, an actual news interview, a scheduled newscast or an on-the-spot news event. Talk shows and other syndicated shows can be exempted by the FCC on a case-by-case basis. IIRC, FOXNews gets away with their blatant abuse of this rule by calling many of their shows “entertainment” not news. I also suspect that if too much attention is drawn to it, it will vanish, just as the Fairness Doctrine has done over the last 30 years.

    The ability of the population to read about and compare candidates for office has generally been considered a public good toward creating a well-informed electorate. There is a compelling public interest in the government ensuring the continuation of the democratic process, which enables the government to require private media distributors to offer equal access of their media to candidates. (Mind you, I think it was probably Father Coughlin who inspired the rule. 😉 )

  • anat

    Pierce @1: It means ‘and thanks to them’ where ‘them’ is in the feminine form.

  • anat

    Ed, Yated Ne’eman is one of those newspapers that alters photographs that include women to make it appear no women were photographed.

  • marcus

    Yes Carl @ 4 This has nothing to do with editorial content or opinion. It is not about limiting freedom of expression or speech, any more than requiring a baker to bake or a florist to flor.

    It is essentially the media equivalent of America’s public accommodation laws.

  • anat

    fmitchell, I doubt haredim prevent women from voting, they can do the math that much.

    They are also the group most notorious for fraudulent voting by using the ID of deceased people who were not removed in time from the registry and by using the iD of people who are out of the country. (A common joke in the haredi sector is that on election day cohanim need to be warned to stay out of the way when the deceased are voting.)

  • Leo T.

    It looks like the ruling was overturned over the weekend, although ostensibly for prodecural reasons:

  • culuriel

    @anat #10: But, but, I thought IDs magically stop voter fraud!

  • Raging Bee

    But having the government force a newspaper to print something the publisher doesn’t want to is also pretty rotten.

    What’s wrong with requiring a newspaper to print a campaign ad? That’s important information that citizens need to know in order to make important decisions that affect the country as a whole. It’s also basic fairness to require newspapers to print all parties’ ads, not just the ones who pay the most for the space.

    Seriously, democracy requires an informed electorate. NO ONE has a right to block information from getting to voters.

  • StevoR
  • Raging Bee

    That the mere appearance of an ad for a female candidate would offend readers of a Haredi newspaper speaks volumes, don’t you think?

    Yeah, it makes me wonder why the USA is supporting a state that’s sliding so far into religious insanity.

    And the kicker is Netenyahu’s final pitch: scaring right-wingers with the prospect of Arabs VOTING. Not shooting rockets at them from outside, but VOTING, as full Israeli citizens, in accordance with Israeli law.

  • David Marjanović

    I’d like to quote all of comment 13 for truth.