An Israeli judge has ruled that billboard owners must sell advertising space to any political party that wants it, or none at all — even if they find the content of that advertising objectionable.
The decision, issued on Aug. 6, comes after Israel’s far-right party, Noam, was denied space on the outside wall of a Jerusalem hotel and on bus sides for posters bearing a number of messages, including linking gay people to child trafficking.
The messages included:
“‘Pride’ and buying children, or my son marrying a woman — Israel chooses to be normal.”
“‘Pride’ and buying children, or my grandson remaining Jewish — Israel chooses to be normal.”
“Reform, or my grandson remaining Jewish — Israel chooses to be normal.”
Two advertising companies, Cnaan Media and Y. Moore, had refused to run the ads on the grounds that they could “be hurtful to whole communities” due to the implications that LGBTQ people and Reform Jews are abnormal, and that same-sex couples are involved in child trafficking, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports.
But Israel’s Central Elections Committee, chaired by Israeli Supreme Court Justice Neal Hendel, ruled that, under election law, advertising companies must give equal time and ad space to all political parties who request it, reports Reuters.
“A duty of equality [includes] the commitment to publish election propaganda of all parties and lists, including those whose values are different…from those of the advertising agency,” Hendel said in his judgement.
Noam hailed the decision as a “great victory” in a post on its Facebook page.
The decision has ramifications ahead of Israel’s Sept. 17 elections, as Noam and other far-right parties will now be able to run divisive ads, including ones with homophobic overtones, without any obstacles as they court potential voters.
Noam has made traditional marriage and a return to conservative, moral values essential planks within its platform — meaning they are likely to escalate their attacks against LGBTQ people or use LGBTQ rights as a wedge issue over the next six weeks.
However, polls indicate that the party is unlikely to get above the vote threshold required to hold seats in parliament.
LGBTQ activists are incensed by the decision, arguing that hateful ads like the one proposed by Noam have no place in political campaigns.
“When children like our children — 5-, 6-, 8-year-old children — see this kind of hate advertising they ask us, ‘Dad, do you think that I am normal?'” Julien Bahoul, a spokesman for the Association of Gay Israeli Fathers, told Reuters.
Or Keshet, an activist who lobbies Israeli politicians on behalf of a coalition of 14 LGBTQ groups, says that advertising like that being pushed by Noam has “nothing to do with freedom of speech.”
“They hate and they mock and they insult anyone who is different than them,” he said.
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