"Egged told us, ‘Our policy is that you can be right, or you can be smart.’… As you know, it’s not the first time that violence has gotten results. There are many situations in the world that have nothing to do with Egged where strong, violent and influential groups have succeeded in getting what they wanted.”
Ha'aretz reports that Egged will stop posting ads on its buses next year because of haredi violence and vandalism. It would do so immediately, but it can't becuase it has a contract with Cnaan advertising that runs until October 2013:
…According to Egged spokesman Ron Ratner, “The moment the High Court of Justice had its say, the legal consultants of Egged and Cnaan decided that no more images of human beings would be shown until October 2013, and afterward, we would stop advertising entirely. We do not need the buses to be a base for commercial advertisements. Their purpose is to transport people, not to become a point of controversy.”
Ratner would not comment on whether or not the decision could have cultural or civil ramifications.
“Egged has not given in to the Haredim. This is purely a business decision. Egged’s officials believe that showing images of human beings on buses will cause it intolerable financial damage," he says. "Our business is not education or intellectual pursuits, but operating buses. We do not deal in values or image. Our mandate is to run public transportation in Jerusalem based on the guidelines of our regulator, which is the Transportation Ministry. Anyone who translates that into a political uproar is acting out of their own interests.”
Q. Do you really not understand where the uproar is coming from?
“That’s what I have to say. That’s what we’re doing. Our position is that we deal with public transportation, and if we didn’t have a contract with Cnaan, we’d stop all billboard advertising in Jerusalem immediately in order to avoid this uproar.”…
“Over the years, Egged has suffered irreversible damage amounting to hundreds of thousands of shekels because of the vandalism,” Ratner says. “I’m not talking about disruptions of bus lines, late buses or an image problem that has to do with the bus not being safe. I’m talking about direct damage – to the metal, the paint, the glass.”…
Cnaan's spokesperson told Ha'aretz that while he's opposed to haredi violence and to their treatment of women, he's got to go along with Egged, because Egged controls the purse strings. And, he said:
…Egged told us, ‘Our policy is that you can be right, or you can be smart.’…
“As you know, it’s not the first time that violence has gotten results. There are many situations in the world that have nothing to do with Egged where strong, violent and influential groups have succeeded in getting what they wanted.”…
Are Egged and Cnaan making a mountain out of something only slightly larger than a molehill?
…Nissim Hasson, VP of sales and marketing for the Zohar billboard company, which holds the franchise for advertising on directional and map signs in Jerusalem, was for years afraid to put photos of women on his ads. Whenever he acquiesced, his signs were burned or splashed with tar, at a cost of hundreds of shekels per sign.
But his resolved has been strengthened over the past few months as he has seen women become further and further marginalized in society. He decided that it was time to put females alongside males on his signs, a decision that has brought him tens of thousands of shekels thanks to the broadening of his client base.
Vandalism incidents have been few and far between.
“I can’t say I’m not afraid, but I’m proud to fight it [the exclusion of women],” he says. “I don’t want to support it. I have three daughters, and the exclusion of women irritates me. When there’s a consensus with the municipality, it’s much easier to act.”…
The haredi vandalism and violence could be stopped immediately if police would do their job. But police won't, because the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn't want them to because Netanyahu needs haredim to remain in power. Israeli police are a national, not local, organization and as such are subjected to national politics far more than they are local politics.
“This matter has something important to say to Israeli society,” says [the religious freedom movement] Yerushalmim CEO Uri Ayalon. “We can’t abandon the capital city. Today, there are no pictures of men or women in Jerusalem. Tomorrow, there won’t be any in Tel Aviv. It’s inconceivable.”
“Egged’s decision is absurd,” says [Rachel] Azaria, the [Jerusalem] councilwoman [and Yerushalmim activist who successfully petitioned Israel's High Court of Justice to stop Egged's and Cnaan's censorship of women's faces and bodies]. “If Egged buses are vandalized, then instead of going to the police and demanding enforcement, they’re making men and women invisible. It’s like not letting the kids go out to recess if there’s a bully in school, instead of dealing with the bully.”
It may be inconceivable in America or England or in other Western democracies, but it isn't inconceivable in an Israel headed by a craven, thuggish and corrupt man like Benjamin Netanyahu. In Benjamin Netanyahu's Israel, the inconceivable and awful is the corrupt reality.