Videos bring Israel’s fringe parties to the people

We have arrived at the point in every election when voters wish they lived in an autocracy and never had to watch another campaign video ever again. For the last three months Israelis have been bombarded with information and misinformation, and with one week left it can’t be over soon enough.

Little distinguishes this election from previous years: Israeli politics remain multipolar, the same core issues (economy, security, secular v religious social rights, political corruption) are being debated by the various parties, and Benjamin Netanyahu seems likely to remain prime minister. But at least we have YouTube!

Barring some unforeseeable plot twist, the exploitative use of viral marketing is what has made the 2015 elections unique. But in reality, social media has only served as a reminder to a dissatisfied public of the flaws within the Israeli political system.

Currently in my email, I have 45 campaign videos that I thought were worthy of viewership (not included those that I have previously featured here, here, here, and here). It took quite some time to sort through all of them (the most frustrating being a 3-hour-long wundervideo by Yesh Atid) and decide whether they made “the cut” for the following two blogposts, but I hope you find these worthy of your time.

The international media largely portrays the election as a two-party race between Netanyahu’s Likud and Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Union. But this is hardly the case. The latest statistics provided by Project 61 indicate that around 11 parties will enter the upcoming Knesset. Therefore I feel obligated to showcase some of the lesser-known parties in this post, before addressing the five mainstream parties: Kulanu, Yesh Atid, Jewish Home, the Zionist Union, and Likud.

Take, for example, United Torah Judaism (UTJ). This Haredi party put out a witty video that perfectly summarizes more or less everything the party stands for – and all on a shoestring budget!

Using the popular (both in Israel and Jewish summer camps) foosball as a metaphor for the UTJ’s position, a goalkeeper wearing classic Haredi garb thwarts the attempted strikes by the players on the field, each identified with the various stickers of other political parties. The goalie blocks the ball entitled “חוק הגיוס”, a bill that would demand all Israeli citizens – members of the Haredi community included – to participate in military or national service. The goalie then blocks “חוק הגיור”, another piece of legislation intended to reform Israel’s laws pertaining to marriage, and “קצבאות ילדים” (state benefits determined by the number of children below the age of 18 in a household). Not surprisingly, for a party desperately fighting off legislation it believes will damage the very fabric of its constituents, this commercial is all about preventing those bent on passing these laws from reaching their goals. “Only a big and strong United Torah Judaism can prevent these legislations!” the closing slogan reads.

However, while all parties are ultimately interested in protecting their constituents, only some try to achieve this by slandering other voting bases. Desperate to stay afloat, this is the strategy adopted by Avigdor Liberman and Yisrael Beytenu against Israel’s Arab population (Liberman has even gone so far as to call for beheading Arab-Israelis who support terror).

The video shows the Umm al Fahm, one of Israel’s larger Arab towns. As the muezzin sings, the sound of dissenting Arabs grows. The video continues, presenting the red of Umm al Fahm against the blue of Ariel, the largest Jewish settlement in the West Bank. Ariel pushes Umm al Fahm out of the picture, emblematic of Liberman’s proposal to cede the Arab town to the Palestinians in exchange for keeping the settlements.

Arab-Israelis have a lot at stake in these elections (see here) and the new “Joint List” of four parties could potentially garner the third largest number of seats in the Knesset. Despite that fact, it is unlikely that the Joint List will join any future coalition, no matter which party stands at its head. Here is their campaign song:

Lyrics (my translation):

On behalf of the people
hand in hand
let’s walk together and we will go far
The Joint List
with its many hues
is building a future, a new tomorrow
Our platform is for everyone
a 100% priority
Join us in good spirit
together we will grow and grow
On behalf of the people!

The Joint List hopes that its non-sectarian message, directed specifically but not exclusively towards Arabs, will help it remain relevant on the margin’s of Israeli politics. Shas, Israel’s Sephardi religious party, is also rebuild itself (following the death of Rav Ovadia Yosef – the party’s spiritual leader and founder – in 2013), but by reminding voters why they need to stay in the family.

In this video, a young man visits his grandmother’s house. Upon entering, they sit in her living room (with pictures of Ovadia Yosef and the Baba Sali, another famous Sephardi scholar) and she turns on a television program that tells the story of Ovadia Yosef’s life.

“The erudite Ovadia Yosef,” the grandmother instructs her grandson, “returned to the Mizrachim (Jews who moved to Israel from the Arab world) their dignity…when he passed away, millions attended his funeral.”

The grandson sheds a tear.

“We must fulfill the will of the Maran (a title reserved for respected rabbis like Ovadia Yosef),” grandmother says while passing a Shas election slip into his hands. “Your grandfather voted Shas. Your father votes Shas. My sweet boy, Shas is tradition.”

“Of course, grandmother. Of course. Only Shas.”

The grandson proceeds to kiss his grandmother’s hand, Godfather-style.


Tune in Thursday, when I tackle the election’s mainstream parties.

Posted on by Gabriel in Israel