Thugs Win Again

From The Jerusalem Post:

Egged [the largest bus company in Israel] and the company in charge of bus advertisements have decided that rather than be forced to put up ads with women in Jerusalem due to court action claiming discrimination against the gender, they will remove all people — both men and women — from the bus advertisements.

Starting August 1, Cnaan Advertising quietly removed all persons from their bus advertisements in the capital. The policy was clearly laid out in a letter from Egged to Cnaan obtained by The Jerusalem Post: “In the Jerusalem area there will be no images of people at all, though in other parts of the country it will be possible to use such images,” the letter from July 31 stated.

Cnaan, the company responsible for the bus ads, claims that haredi [ultra-Orthodox-Jewish -EV] extremists have defaced buses with paint and stones and even set an empty bus on fire because of ads featuring images of women they deemed “immodest.” Cnaan refused to run any advertisements with women, claiming that it will cause the company financial damage, and activists accused the company of discrimination against women. After the Transportation Ministry said it would refuse to work with any companies that discriminate based on gender on July 11, legal advisers from Egged and Cnaan decided the best course of action would be to remove any people from bus advertisements….

Whether the government was right in refusing to work with the company unless it treated ads depicting men and ads depicting women equally is a separate question. But while the company decided not to run ads depicting men because of the threat of government action, it’s clear that the company decided not to run ads depicting women because of the fear of thuggery by religious extremists. I sympathize with the company’s predicament, but the bottom line is that the thugs won: Their threat of vandalism and arson has led to the suppression of speech that they dislike.

And when thugs win, that provides more incentive for thuggery, not just by thugs of this ideological stripe but by others as well. It seems that there is serious peril for Israeli democracy and liberty here, and a serious need to do something about this sort of religious extremism that is willing to enforce its censorship schemes not just by social pressure but by criminal attack.

Thanks to Opher Banarie for the pointer.