Olympian to left-wing Meretz: Stop using my image

“I have never publicly identified with the party – and truth be told, I do not support it,” Yael Arad stated, demanding that Meretz remove her image from its election campaign.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Yael Arad, Israel’s first Olympic medal winner, has told the extreme left-wing Meretz party to stop using her image in their election campaign, Hebrew-language media reported Tuesday.

“I was stunned to discover yesterday that you used my name and picture in a Meretz video without having any rights to do so,” she wrote angrily to party head Tamar Zandberg.

Although the clip deals with “an important social issue – that of the exclusion of women by ultra-Orthodox society,” she noted that it is being used to drum up votes for Meretz in the upcoming elections and therefore gives the impression that she supports the party.

“I have never publicly identified with the party – and truth be told, I do not support it,” Arad stated.

“This use constitutes a prohibited violation of my reputation and privacy, the glorification of my achievements which are not connected to Meretz or to you in any way, and an attempt to appropriate me and my positions for the political needs of a party that I do not identify with at all,” she added.

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What particularly disturbed the athlete, she said, was that “such a severe violation of rights is carried out by a party that flies high the flag of human and civil rights.”

The former judoka wondered why Meretz did not ask for her consent first, “like any other body in any other area.”

Arad also insisted that the Meretz leader act “to reduce the exposure that has already occurred.” Because the video is online, it could go viral, which the party cannot not control.

Sports and politics do not mix

The problem is even greater, Arad explained, because she has voluntarily served as a member of Israel’s Olympic committee and is active in the International Olympic Committee. These, she reminded Zandberg, are “bodies that see great importance in not being involved politically.”

She had scrupulously kept to this guideline, she stated, not making her political views public nor joining any party even though she has been approached about entering the political arena.

In response to Arad’s charges, Meretz stated that the purpose of the campaign, which featured many  female leaders in their field, was to “salute women who are pioneers and how they are excluded from the public sphere in Israel in the year 2019. At no stage is it hinted that all these women support Meretz, and no viewer could understand otherwise.”

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Arad took silver in women’s judo at the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona, which she dedicated to her countrymen who were murdered at the Munich games 20 years earlier. She also won silver in the world championships a year later and came in fifth in 1995. She then became a coach and is now in business, as well as serving as a TV commentator at judo competitions.