Yellow Pages have responded to demands to take down ads advertising “Jews Only” businesses by claiming they can’t refuse ads carrying business names approved by the company registrar. This doesn’t stand up to even the most rudimentary fact-checking.
My colleague Roi Maor took the case of the “Arabs free” business listings in the Israeli Yellow Pages a step further, engaging in a brief correspondence with Gilia Shapira, company official tasked responding to protest letter launched via the Shutafut-Sharakah campaign against the ads.
As readers would recall, the gist of Shapira’s argument was that the term Hebrew Labor, used in the ads to signal the business were not employing Arabs of a policy, is a “turn of phrase used in Israel for many years,” and is not in itself illegal; and, more to the point, that Yellow Pages “serves as an advertising platform for its customers and is not responsible for the content of the adverts.”
Roi took Shapira to task on her letter:
Dear Gilia Shapira,As you may have noticed, my original email was a standard letter sent by many others, and that was the sum of my my involvement with the campaign. This letter, however, is my own personal message to the Yellow Pages company, and now I have become truly committed to the campaign.Your response to my first letter left me even more concerned than when I first learned about the ads. Do you really and truly maintain that you will allow any content whatsoever in Yellow Pages ads? Would you run adverts offering little children for sale, trade in human flesh, and so on? Or, alternatively, would you run an advert that contains the words “No Jews / Blacks/ Ethiopians / Mizrahis allowed?”If we put aside your strange pretence of innocence regarding the meaning of Hebrew Labor, which does you little favour, it would seem to me your stretching the line to include discrimination of Arabs. Yet it also seems you would not allow other wrongful advertising; and if you actually do allow any horror and crime to be included in your adverts, then I am doubly appalled.Be that as it may, I suggest you reconsider your policy. I don’t think you need to filter every advert for problematic keywords, but from the moment you’ve actually been warned, I would suggest you simply decide a policy of not allowing the term “Hebrew Labor” to appear anywhere in the Yellow Pages. The decision is easy to enforce; it would spare you the real damage caused by your current policy and would significantly contribute to the struggle for the character of a society you are a part of.With deep concern,Roi Maor
Dear Roi,I guess we didn’t explain ourselves well enough. We would not advertise anything that constitutes a clear violation of the law, like the examples you suggested. The classification “Hebrew Labor” also doesn’t exist here. In the case of businesses whose names were allowed by the company registrar, we have neither ability nor authority to reject their adverts. Complaints on that matter should be pursued through the justice system.As mentioned earlier, we as a company indignantly reject any and all racism and discrimination.Kind regards,Gilia Shapira