Israeli party pulls "What, you're not Jewish?" TV ad

Reuters Middle East

JERUSALEM, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Complaints by Russian-speaking

immigrants prompted an ultra-Orthodox party in Israel to pull a

TV commercial plugging their election campaign which shows a man

recoiling in horror at discovering his bride is not Jewish.

In the advert, a Russian-accented bride receives a faxed

certificate during her wedding ceremony attesting to her

conversion to Judaism. With disgust in his voice, her Israeli

husband blurts out: "What, you're not Jewish?"

The controversy reflected long-standing tensions between the

religious Shas party, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin

Netanyahu's government, whose core constituency is made up of

Jews of Middle Eastern or North African descent, and parties

representing immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

There are at least 2 million Russian-speaking immigrants in

Israel and hundreds of thousands do not meet Orthodox standards

for recognition as Jews.

Several immigrants complained about the commercial in

letters to the Israel Central Elections Committee and many more

posted protests on social media sites such.

Nino Abesadze, immigrant lawmaker and candidate for the

centrist Labour party, denounced the Shas advert in a notice

posted on her Facebook page as "racist and mocking of the

immigrants", and demanded it be taken off the air.

In a statement the committee said late on Wednesday it had

found the advert offensive and that Shas had agreed not to run

it anymore. The minute-long spot aired for two nights in the

run-up to the Jan. 22 parliamentary election.

Parties championing Russian-speaking immigrants such as the

far-right Yisrael Beitenu led by former Foreign Minister Avigdor

Lieberman, want to simplify Jewish conversion procedures in

Israel controlled by the Orthodox Rabbinate.

Shas opposes this, as it does calls for civil marriage in

Israel. The Rabbinate, also in charge of marriage procedures,

issues marriage licences only to couples it deems Jewish under

ritual law.

(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Pravin Char)

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