Blue and White ad attacks religious Zionist population, defaces flag

A strange ad appearing in religious Zionist newspapers over the weekend, sponsored by the Blue and White party, attacked that very community and defaced the Israeli flag.

By Atara Beck

Over the weekend, two newspapers catering to the Orthodox-Jewish/Zionist community carried on the front cover a full-page ad, sponsored by the Blue and White party, attacking religious Zionist Jews.

The community is dubbed “hardal,” which stands for “haredi leumi” – Hebrew for religious nationalist. “Hardal” is also the Hebrew word for mustard. The ad consists of a flag stained with mustard along with a caption that reads: “So much mustard (i.e. haredi Zionism) that it already has no taste.”

World Israel News (WIN) contacted a spokesperson for Blue and White, asking why the party would publish an ad that seems to insult a particular demographic, especially since party leader Benny Gantz, in a speech on election night in September, said that uniting the country was no less important than ensuring Israel’s security against external threats.

“These cracks threaten to tear us apart,” Gantz said at the time. “We as a leadership must act immediately to heal them. Society is strong and believes in itself but it is wounded, and the time has come to heal it.”

Furthermore, why did the ad appear only in publications representing the religious Zionist sector? Could it be trying to appeal to the more moderately religious voters?

WIN also asked if the party expects to face legal threats, as it is against Israeli law to deface the flag.

The spokesperson’s response: “Currently not commenting on this.”

WIN also emailed the editor of Shvii, one of the two Hebrew-language papers carrying the ad (the other was Makor Rishon, whose offices closed at 1 p.m.), asking why they agreed to publish it, considering the insult to the community, but received no reply to date.

Blue and White is Israel’s main opposition party, being slightly ahead of Likud in the polls.

A spokesperson for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party told WIN:

“The ad from our opponents has shown their true colors. In contrast, the Likud Party was created as a home for all Israelis. We are proud to represent the National Religious community and boast the most National Religious members of Knesset.”

On Sunday, MK Elazar Stern of Blue and White, who himself identifies as a religious Zionist, published an op-ed on the Hebrew-language Arutz 7 website, titled “Crying over spilled mustard,” in which he defended the ad. He attacked the religious Zionist parties that he claims have hurt him personally as well as harming “the Jewish identity of the State of Israel.”

UPDATE: An administrator from Makor Rishon returned WIN’s call on Monday morning, saying that the paper is obligated by law to take election ads, even if they disagree with the content. They were afraid of “legal repercussions.”