An extended High Court of Justice panel, headed by Supreme Court President Asher Grunis, reversed Central Elections Committee Chairman Justice Elyakim Rubinstein's decision on Tuesday to ban a Balad party campaign ad and parts of an ad by the Strong Israel party — ruling that both ads can be broadcast in their entirety.
The parties and the Association for Human Rights in Israel submitted appeals against Rubinstein's decision — who deemed the ads to be offensive in nature — to edit out certain lines from Strong Israel's televised campaign ad, including: "In [the Arab town of] Sakhnin not everyone pays municipal tax;" "In east Jerusalem there are those who show contempt for the law;" "In [the Arab town of] of Taybeh and in the Negev there are those who build illegal villas."
The appeals to the High Court also targeted Rubinstein's decision to ban a segment of Balad's campaign ad in which the words to Israel's national anthem "Hatikva" are played to the tune of a hit Arabic song. In his decision, Rubinstein said that the national anthem was played in a "twisted and ridiculous manner" and that "disgracing the symbols of the state, a Jewish and democratic state, is unacceptable to me."
The High Court of Justice determined that, "In both cases — which are very different from one another — it's difficult to say that they meet the restrictive criteria required to limit the parties' freedom of expression, or that the degree of offense to the public sensibilities as a result of consuming these campaign ads is 'beyond the appropriate level of tolerance.'"
In their ruling the judges wrote: "Balad's campaign ad was meant, based on its claim, to be a political satire. Even if the use of the national anthem is insolent, funny or ridiculous, in their words, the goal of the ad is not the debasement of the anthem."
Rubinstein also took a harsh stance against other parties. He fined Habayit Hayehudi NIS 10,000 ($2,681) for violating election campaign codes by continuing to show Israeli soldiers in its ads. He ordered that a segment from the Kalkala ("Economic) Party's campaign ad be banned for containing sexual innuendo. He also ordered that Shas blur the face of a young girl, not yet 15 years old, in one of its ads.
Rubinstein also disqualified a segment of Aleh Yarok's (Green Leaf) radio ad for allegedly calling on the public to violate the Knesset's election laws and offering ways in which to do so.
Following an appeal by former Peace Now Director Yariv Oppenheimer against Habayit Hayehudi, Rubinstein ruled that parties are forbidden from exploiting educational institutions in their ads, including yeshivas (religious schools) that send some of their students to the military.