Top Israeli food manufacturer faces boycott over bid to cancel right-wing TV personality

Religious Zionist rabbis declare boycott against Strauss Group over its efforts to cancel right-wing pundit.

By World Israel News Staff

One of Israel’s largest food manufacturers is facing a backlash after it cut ties with a conservative-leaning media outlet over recent comments by a right-wing pundit.

On Sunday, attorney Ari Shamai sparked controversy during an appearance on “The Patriots,” a panel commentary show on Channel 14, a right-leaning television network.

Criticizing the Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this year striking down a law which limited the conditions under which a former convict can be barred from public office over moral turpitude – an amendment which enabled Shas chairman Aryeh Deri to serve as minister – Shamai suggested that under the same logic, personal laws targeting assassin Yigal Amir should also be disqualified.

“I am happy to hear that the Supreme Court is against personal laws,” said Shamai, who once represented Amir, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin.

“It’s time to release [Rabin’s assassin] Yigal Amir, because personal laws were also enacted against him.”

The “Yigal Amir” law, passed by the Knesset in 2001, was specifically written with him in mind. The measure bans prison parole boards from ever shortening, pardoning, or commuting the sentence of a person convicted of killing a prime minister.

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The Patriots host Yinon Magal quickly cut off Shamai, and Channel 14 later issued a disclaimer, distancing itself from Shamai’s comments.

“The serious remarks made by Ari Shamai represent his views alone. In light of the seriousness of the matter, Mr. Shamai will no longer be invited to appear on the channel’s programs.”

Nevertheless, following Sunday evening’s broadcast, Israeli food giant Strauss Group announced that it will no longer advertise its products on Channel 14.

On Wednesday, Channel 14 accused Strauss of pursuing an illegal boycott, stating that publicly-owned companies like the Strauss Group are prohibited from taking overtly political positions.

The Strauss Group’s boycott is “a political decision by the Strauss leaders, and not a decision in favor of Strauss, and was made illegally,” Channel 14 is quoted as writing Strauss in a letter published by Channel 12.

A number of Religious Zionist rabbis publicly backed Channel 14 in its spat with Strauss, issuing a joint letter calling for a boycott of Strauss products.

“We are appalled by Strauss’s decision to use their political power to impose a political agenda on public opinion in Israel,” the rabbis wrote.

“The desire to boycott Channel 14 reminds all of us of the dark times of communist Russia. We cannot sit back and we want to announce that, from today, our yeshiva and educational institutions will not purchase products from companies that publicly boycott in Israel, which harms the freedom of expression and the unity of the people. We call on our students and their families to follow our path.”

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“The decision to boycott a media outlet that expresses a clear voice that is loyal to Israel’s tradition to national and Zionist values is not a one-off decision of a media organization, but a boycott and danger to a large public in Israel.”