During the campaign before the last general elections in April, billboards went up throughout Arab communities and towns in the Galilee urging voters to boycott the vote. Many residents assumed the ads, which did not identify their sponsors, were an initiative of political forces in the Arab community such the Islamic Movement’s Northern Branch, which traditionally boycotts Israel’s national elections.
However, a Channel 12 news inquiry broadcast on Friday, September 6, revealed that the campaign was very likely commissioned and financed by right-wing Jewish settlers who hoped to significantly decrease Arab turnout at the polls. Channel 12 contacted the companies that sold the billboard space or produced the ads, and discovered they had all worked with anonymous clients whose accents and comments indicated they were Jews.
One firm, A.A. Barak Billboards and Advertising, said it had turned down a 250,000 Shekel ($71,000) order from a client who expressed a desire to suppress Arab turnout. Asked what more he could say about the customer, the ad company owner, whose name was not revealed by Channel 12, added, “I think he’s someone from the settlements. He said I should bring him a receipt and the receipt will be sent to the United States, some nonprofit there, and they will send me the money. He said he wants as few Arabs as possible to vote.”
MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash), chair of the Joint List, demanded a criminal probe following the Channel 12 report. “This evening it became clear that suppressing our vote is their victory,” he said in a Twitter post. “We won’t let them settle in our ballot stations. We demand a criminal investigation. Those responsible should be in prison.”