World News

U.S. Jewish ire prompts Israel to scrap ads for expats

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel has cancelled government-sponsored television advertisements calling on expatriates to return, after some American Jews complained that the message denigrated their lifestyles.

The spots, aired on Israeli channels that are often viewed by emigrants, featured dramatized scenes of Jewish assimilation in gentile settings. In one, an Israeli couple looks dismayed to hear their grandchild mention celebrating Christmas abroad.

“I don’t think I have ever seen a demonstration of Israeli contempt for American Jews as obvious as these ads,” wrote influential U.S. blogger Jeffrey Goldberg, in sentiments echoed by several American Jewish groups that lodged complaints.

The United States has the largest Jewish community outside Israel, and religious assimilation there is common. Israel looks to American Jews for support, but some in the community chafe at Israel’s rightist tilt and strains in its ties with Washington.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered that the ads, produced by Israel’s Immigration and Absorption Ministry, be yanked “immediately” upon hearing of the controversy they caused, his spokesman said on Saturday.

“The government of Israel is very attuned to the sensitivities of the American Jewish community,” the spokesman, Mark Regev, said.

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Tim Pearce