Activists holding up a sign saying "Elections without racism".
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) disagrees with the decision of Central Elections Committee Chairman, Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, to ban the racist advertising campaign of the Otzma Leyisrael party.
According to Attorney Dan Yakir, ACRI’s Chief Legal Counsel, “Otzma Leysirael’s campaign is obscene, and its clear purpose is to de-legitimize the Arab community. It is also obscene in the sense that it improperly asserts a connection between rights and obligations. All people are entitled to human rights, irrespective of whether they fulfill any kind of obligation. Nevertheless, the decision to disqualify the campaign is problematic. To begin with, it was taken without the necessary authority, as the law does not grant the chairperson of the Central Elections Committee authority to interfere with the content of billboards. Primarily, though, the decision is problematic because it is not the proper vehicle to stop incitement to racism. Political freedom of expression is subject to the widest possible constitutional protection – especially during the time of an election. Accordingly, only expressions that have a near-certainty of leading to racist incitement may be banned, and that is not the case here.
“Racist speech that severely harms minorities has been legitimized in the current mainstream political discourse. An isolated disqualification such as the one called for by the Central Elections Committee is not the solution. What is needed is a determined struggle against racism of the type we do not see today – first and foremost by senior public officials. ACRI will continue to fight for both the eradication of racism and promotion of full civil equality, as well as the protection of the freedom of expression.”
The campaign by Otzma Leyisrael, posted on buses and billboards across Israel, included the word “loyalty” in Arabic, with a Hebrew caption underneath that reads: “Without duties there are no [civil] rights.”