A Lod District Court ordered ultra-Orthodox newspapers Yated Ne'eman and Yom Le'yom on Friday to run campaign ads for the Haredi women's party B'Zechutan, after the party claimed the papers were discriminating against it by refusing to print its ads.
The decision could also result in official Shas and United Torah Judaism journals - which serve as the mouthpiece of the most prominent Haredi rabbis - also having to run campaign ads for a party that challenges them and accuses them of exclusion of women.
B'Zechutan leader Ruth Kolian petitioned the court with the help of the Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women and the Center for Women's Justice. Her lawyers, attorneys Karen Horowitz and Shai Zilberberg, explained that the printed Haredi press is the only media channel accessible to the party's potential voters.
Judge Jacob Spasser issued an interim order which requires the two newspapers to run at least one of the party's campaign ads until Election Day, noting that in this case the principle of equality surpasses the property rights of the newspapers' owners.
"This is an ad which is public in nature, and mostly targets women in the Haredi sector," the judge wrote in his ruling. "There's considerable public importance in running it, an importance that might be higher in light of the prohibition on discrimination and the principle of equality in elections."
The court rejected the papers' claim that papers that already cover different parties whose views are clearly not in line with their own views, might offend their readers by running an ad for the Haredi women's party.
Prof. Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, the head of the Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women at Bar-Ilan University's Law Faculty, said following the ruling that "this is a historic legal precedent which determines that in certain circumstances, considerations of equality for women and election equality, as well as preventing discrimination against women and their preventing their exclusion, surpass property rights of commercial bodies like newspapers.
"This is the height of women's exclusion. Haredi women are not only prevented in practice from realizing the basic human right of running and being elected for Knesset, they are also denied the equal opportunity to inform their potential voters that they are running independently."
B'Zechutan leader Ruth Kolian said: "By having the Haredi newspapers refuse to allow us to reach our voters, we're excluded twice. First, we're not allowed to reach our audience of voters, and secondly, instead of using the time we have left until the elections to campaign, we have to turn to different courts in order to realize our right to be elected."
Kolian also said she hoped her party continues creating precedents in the elections as well.