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Anti-gay political ads are legal in Israel, a judge rules, weeks before elections

Petition filed after two companies refuse to sell ad space to far-right party that links gay people with child trafficking
Members of Israeli gay community rally under heavy security in Jerusalem in 2015, after ultra-Orthodox stabbing attack at Pride (AFP/File photo)

Advertising companies in Israel cannot refuse to run anti-gay political campaign ads, a judge has decided, six weeks before Israelis vote in legislative elections. 

The petition was filed after two companies refused to sell ad space to the far-right Noam party, which tried to link gay people to child trafficking.

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Israel's Central Elections Committee, a parliamentary body chaired by Israeli Supreme Court Justice Neal Hendel, ruled that companies must sell advertising space to any party that wants it or none at all, Reuters news agency reported.  

"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 on Tuesday, Reuters reported. 

Noam had requested to place billboards in Jerusalem and run ads on buses with homophobic slogans including  "Pride and buying children, or my son marrying a woman", with many of the ads ending with "Israel chooses to be normal". 

Noam, a recently-formed, ultra-Orthodox Jewish party, did not respond to a Reuters request for comment, though it called the ruling "a great victory" on Facebook.

Polls indicate the party is unlikely to get above the vote threshold required to hold seats in parliament in legislative elections on 17 September.

The advertising companies had refused to run the ads on the grounds that "they could be hurtful to whole communities", Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported. 

Gay rights campaigners said the ads had no place in a democratic election campaign.

"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?'" a spokesman for the Association of Gay Israeli Fathers, Julien Bahoul, told Reuters. 

Such advertising has "nothing to do with freedom of speech," said Or Keshet, who lobbies Israeli politicians on behalf of a coalition of 14 Israeli LGBT+ groups.

"They hate and they mock and they insult anyone who is different than them," he said, as quoted by Reuters.

The two advertising companies involved in the case, Cnaan Media and Y. Moore, did not respond to Reuters' requests for comment.

Same-sex marriage is illegal in Israel, although weddings performed abroad are recognised.