Last updated: 25 February, 2015

Israel court okays Charlie Hebdo distribution for vote

Israel’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that a far-right party could distribute controversial copies of Charlie Hebdo as part of its campaign ahead of a March 17 general election.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party had already displayed copies of the French satirical magazine that featured an image of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed at a publicity stunt in Tel Aviv earlier this month.

But party activists stopped short of distributing them on that occasion while the Supreme Court decided whether or not to uphold a decision by the electoral commission that giving out the magazines for free was tantamount to bribery.

“In the form of election propaganda, (Beitenu) are allowed to distribute the special issue of Charlie Hebdo to voters,” the court said.

“It is legitimate electoral propaganda.”

On February 5, members of the hardline Beitenu party, their mouths symbolically taped shut, set up a stall in the heart of Israel’s commercial capital and displayed copies of Charlie Hebdo for public perusal.

That issue — released a week after a deadly attack by Islamist gunmen on Charlie Hebdo’s office in Paris — had courted controversy by featuring a cartoon of Mohammed, drawing condemnation from Muslim leaders.

“We will not surrender, and we will publish whatever we like, whenever we like,” Lieberman said at the time.

Charlie Hebdo’s print version is not available for purchase in Israel.