'Fascist' perfume, flatulent hippo: social media war for Israel election

Jerusalem (AFP) –


A new ad with an elegantly dressed minister using "fascist" perfume drew online outrage Tuesday, the latest in a social media war ahead of an Israeli election that has also featured a flatulent hippo.

Israeli law prevents political ads from being aired on television until two weeks before the April 9 election, so parties have flooded social media with clips instead.

The elections are expected to be close and social media is playing a part in the campaign as never before.

In keeping with Israel's seldom subtle political scene, many have been over the top, and the one released late on Monday featuring Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked pushed lots of buttons.

The ad tries to play on accusations from her critics that Shaked has pursued a fascist-like agenda and argue that her policies are in fact more democratic.

But many comments judged the ad, which mimics an advert for a pricey perfume, as a failure that could be mistaken for an endorsement of fascism.

"For anyone who doesn't know that the left often accuses Shaked of fascism, this ad will sound like she's endorsing fascism and calling it democracy," Eylon Levy of Israel's i24 news channel posted on Twitter.

"Designed by someone who's too deep in the inside baseball."

Opinion polls show Shaked's far-right New Right party not performing as well in the elections as had earlier been projected, and the aim seemed to be to recapture the public's attention.

It certainly succeeded in doing so, though it perhaps backfired.

As dramatic piano music plays, Shaked saunters and poses while a narrator lists the virtues of a perfume called "Fascism".

The qualities listed include Shaked's stated goals, including reducing what she calls judges' activism.

After spraying herself with "Fascism," Shaked turns her gaze to the camera and says: "Smells like democracy to me."

Political parties are trying to break through the noise with eye-catching videos and hard-hitting claims about their opponents.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud have been among them, creating an online television channel and churning out regular videos denouncing his main opponent, former military chief Benny Gantz.

Gantz's Blue and White alliance has responded in kind.

Smaller parties have sought to differentiate themselves.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon's centre-right Kulanu, which is struggling in opinion polls, last week released a video designed as a trailer for a movie.

It featured a fish climbing a tree and a flatulent hippopotamus, with the message being that only Kahlon, the "sane right", cares about social issues.

The animals were meant to symbolise all the distractions from real issues Israeli voters are facing in the campaign.