Middle East

Israel elections: 'Fascism' perfume ad sparks online debate

Screen grab of campaign video
Image caption Party ads posted on social media have been vying for voters' attention during the campaign

A new campaign advertisement in Israel featuring the right-wing justice minister has made waves ahead of the parliamentary election due on 9 April.

In the video, which is portrayed as a commercial, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is seen spraying an expensive-looking perfume called "Fascism".

Ms Shaked says the video is a prank, but critics warn it may come across as an endorsement of fascism.

Parties have been trying to outdo each other on social media in the campaign.

Television ads are banned until two weeks before the poll, so parties have been resorting to social networking sites to publish their campaign videos.

A recent ad run by the centre-right Kulanu party featured a flatulent hippo and a fish climbing up a tree.

'Smells like democracy'

In the black-and-white campaign video, Ms Shaked acts like a perfume model walking through a luxury home, with soft piano music playing in the background.

A female voice can be heard whispering phrases in Hebrew that mark her key policies - "judicial reform", "separation of powers" and "restraining the Supreme Court".

Spraying herself with the perfume, Ms Shaked then delivers the last line: "To me, it smells like democracy."

The mock ad appears to make light of criticism against some of her ultra-nationalist politics.

As justice minister, Ms Shaked has been critical of Israel's top court as being too liberal and interventionist. She has presided over the appointment of three conservative judges to the court, and would curb the judiciary further if returned as justice minister.

Some of her critics say the advert, which has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, may come across as an endorsement of fascism - especially to people outside of Israel who may not understand it is a mock ad.

Several MPs also say the ad objectifies Ms Shaked.

"As a partner to a campaign like this, you are helping chauvinist men who chose to see women as an object of beauty and nothing else," Pnina Tamano-Shata, who is running in the centre-right Blue and White Party list, is quoted as saying in the Jerusalem Post.

Ms Shaked has defended the video, telling Israel's Army Radio: "I'm poking fun at myself, and I don't like the whole exaggerated politically correct conversation."

"People should take themselves a little less seriously."

She and outgoing Education Minister Naftali Bennett have formed the ultra-nationalist New Right party, after leaving the pro-settlement Jewish Home party to form their own faction.

The new party has been flagging in opinion polls, and observers say the ad may be a ploy to recapture voters' attention.

Last week, the centre-right Kulanu party, which is also struggling in polls, released a video which looked like a trailer for a film, showing a fish climbing a tree and a flatulent hippopotamus.

They were supposed to represent the distractions from real issues voters face in the campaign.

On Monday, Israel's Supreme Court disqualified the leader of the far-right Jewish Power party, Michael Ben-Ari, from next month's elections.

Mr Ben-Ari has faced criticism over his comments about Israeli Arabs, which some critics have said amounted to "incitement to racism".

Other members from his party are still able to stand in the polls.

All governments in Israel are coalitions because of the country's system of proportional representation, meaning a single party is unlikely to be able to govern alone.

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