The corporation vs. Lehava: “Silencing”
The corporation refused to air Lehava’s ads – in spite of airing almost totally identical ads of the “Hillel” association * Benzi Gopstein: “This is silencing, we’ll look into taking legal measures”
Yedidya Grossman, Yemanim, 31/01/21
About three weeks ago the Lehava organization (for the prevention of assimilation in the Holy Land) contacted the “Target Spirit” company, which sells ads and sponsorships for the public broadcasting station “Kan” for radio and TV, asking them to examine the possibility of broadcasting ads from the organization on the “Kan Channel Bet” radio station. Lehava sent “Target Spirit” the wording of the ad to be aired. In response, the latter said that the texts offered have been submitted for review by the Director for Advertising Regulation.
The texts that Lehava seeks to air on Channel Bet are actually almost exactly identical to a series of ads by the “Hillel” association that were aired last month on the radio station. Lehava sought to air the following two texts:
Text A: “Shalom, my name is Noa. Two years ago I converted to Islam and married an Arab, but I didn’t feel like I belonged. I shared this with a friend, and she recommended that I contact the ‘Lehava Organization – for the Prevention of Assimilation in the Holy Land’. Lehava referred me to the ‘Fund for the Rescue of Am Israel’. I received everything: An apartment, a supportive social circle, legal and mental aid. With the help of the Lehava organization, I divorced my Arab husband and married a Jew. I call on you to donate to the war on assimilation.”
Text B: “Shalom, I’m Esther. Until age 25 I was married to an Arab and we lived together in the village. When I left him and returned to Judaism, I was dragged into a long legal battle over my child. I turned to the Lehava organization – for the Prevention of Assimilation in the Holy Land, who referred me to the ‘Fund for the Rescue of Am Israel’, who granted me legal aid and accompanied me the whole way during the hearings, until the court decided to grant me custody of the boy. I call upon you to donate to the war on assimilation.”
Conversely, here are the ads aired by the “Hillel Association”:
Text A: “Shalom, my name is Emma. I grew up in a Charedi family, but I didn’t feel like I belonged. I shared this with a friend, and she recommended that I contact the ‘Hillel Association – Leaving the Orthodox World’. In ‘Hillel’ I received everything: A transitional apartment, a supportive social circle, employment counseling and scholarships for studying. With the help of ‘Hillel’, I finished my studies and today I’m a programmer and feel great satisfaction in my work. I call on you to donate to the ‘Hillel’ association.”
Text B: “Shalom, I’m Assaf. Until age 25 I was Charedi. When I left Orthodoxy, I was dragged into a long legal battle over my child. The ‘Hillel Association – Leaving the Orthodox World’ accompanied me the whole way and helped me with scholarships to study. Over the years I raised a new family. Today, I am a caretaker using the help of animals, and my oldest is a reserve officer. I call upon you to donate to the Hillel Association.”
Text C: “Shalom, my name is Rachel. I grew up in a Charedi community and chose to leave the Orthodox world. This was a difficult decision that led to heavy prices to be paid. The ‘Hillel Association – Leaving the Orthodox World’ helped me to transition between worlds via their personally accompanying me and with scholarships. Today, I am a creator, literary editor and language editor, and enjoy my contribution to the world. I call on you to donate to the Hillel Association.”
Except that after Lehava’s texts were reviewed, the corporation informed them that they refuse to air them. In mail sent by Dorit Doani, the Director for Advertising Regulation, she wrote: “Following the scripts received and after a review, the wording transmitted does not comply with the rules of the corporation’s advertisements, particularly 9-D of the rules that stipulates that the corporation will not air an ad broadcast that includes one or more of the following:… D) Violation against human dignity, against religion, against nationality, against community, gender or sexual orientation, including violation of the religious sensibilities of one or the other within the population, or that includes things that are liable to harm the national and cultural sensibilities of minorities residing in Israel; ‘To the extent that another wording is passed without containing such harm, it will be examined accordingly.’
Lehava has asked for clarification on how an almost identical ad from Hillel, which deals with the Charedi public, was aired. The corporation replied that “the wording of the ads sent in by you is indeed similar, but not identical to the wording of the clips published by the Hillel Association; The wording of the clips sent in by you reveals that these ads contain, unfortunately, a kind of “violation of human dignity, of religion, of nationality, of community, of sexual orientation, including an attack on the religious sensibilities of one or another part of the country’s population, or includes things that are liable to hurt the national and cultural sensibilities of minorities residing in Israel”, which is forbidden in public broadcasts by Clause 9(4) of the rules of advertising the corporation demands, in addition to more controversial statements. In contrast, in the clips by the ‘Hillel Association’, there is no negative statement, not even implicitly, about Charedim, and no message that encourages leaving Orthodoxy, and that is in complete contrast to the wordings sent in by you which contain statements presenting marriage “with an Arab” (and with the Arab population in general) as something negative, even as you worded them in a similar way. In light of the above, airing the ads in the requested wording will not be allowed.”
This is in spite of the fact that a cursory review of the wording offered by Lehava shows that the texts of Lehava contain the same elements that were put into the Hillel ad: Lack of belongingness to society and assistance in the legal battle over custody, in which there is no element given that blackens the name of Arabs, in contrast to the corporation’s allegations.
But in spite of that, Lehava has not given up, and sent two other texts to the corporation that contain a number of changes to the original texts:
1. “Shalom, my name is Noa. I converted to Islam and married an Arab, but I didn’t feel I belonged. I shared this with a friend, and she recommended that I turn to the ‘Lehava organization – For the prevention of Assimilation in the Holy Land’. Lehava referred me to the ‘Fund for the Rescue of Am Israel’, where I received everything: An apartment, a supportive social circle, legal advice and mental aid. I call upon you to donate to the war on assimilation.”
2. “Shalom, my name is Esther. Until age 25 I was married to an Arab, and we lived in the village. When I left him, I was dragged into a long legal battle over my child. I turned to the ‘Lehava organization – for the Prevention of Assimilation in the Holy Land’, and there, through the ‘Fund to Rescue Am Israel’, they accompanied me along the whole way. In the end, the court decided to grant me custody over the boy. I call on you to donate to the war on assimilation.”
The corporation responded that they don’t understand what the change in the texts was, and Lehava explained: “We are of the opinion that in the original texts there was no defect and not even a hint of racism or negative statement against Arabs, when to interpret them this way, one has to make a big fuss that does not jive with reality. In the fixed texts there is certainly no negative statement, not even implied, about Arabs. We will be happy if you would show us where the problem is and the difference between our ads and ‘Hillel’’s ads.” On this responded the corporation: “We do not see any essential difference between the texts just sent and the texts sent last week, and we already noted that there is a suggestion that marriage “with an Arab” (and with the Arab population in general), is something negative and therefore forbidden to air according to the corporation’s rules of publication. This is true about the texts sent in now, too.”
Lehava wonders whether what is really bothering the corporation are the words at the end of the texts – a call to donate to the “war on assimilation”, and proposed the same text concluding with a call to donate to the Fund to Rescue Am Israel. But the corporation refused this, too, claiming that they do not see any difference in the wordings.
Lehava chairman Benzi Gopstein disclosed in response: “It seems that for the ‘public’ broadcast corporation, the airing of ads praising leaving Orthodox Judaism is permissible, but ads encouraging a return to Judaism and a fight against assimilation – forbidden. The corporation that boasts of its status as provider of public broadcasting that grants freedom of speech to all views in society, is the biggest silencer. The time has come for Jewish and Zionist broadcasting that is proud of Jewish tradition, and does not alienate itself from it. Until then, we will examine the possibility of taking legal action against the corporation’s closing of mouths.”