Israel's broadcasting regulator body has initiated an investigation of a Tel Aviv radio show featuring a prominent attorney, over several complaints of frequently sounded on-air slurs directed at left-wing supporters and Arabs.
The probe was also the result of a Justice Ministry decision, which stated that, while the opinions voiced in Yoram Sheftel's show "Sheftel Atzbani" [Sheftel is Cranky] did not necessitate a criminal investigation, The Second Authority for Television and Radio should look into the matter.
On his show, Sheftel, a noted criminal lawyer who represented, among others, Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk and several key Israeli crime figures, discusses current affairs with listeners, with the host often resorting to personal attacks against institutions and personalities.
On several occasions, those being targeted on the show, which airs on Tel Aviv's 103FM, are left-wing NGOs and leaders, referring to them as being "anti-Semitic," and calling them "Judo- Quislings."
The show also includes verbal attacks against Arabs, often comparing them to Nazis and animals. On one broadcast, he said that "the Arabs' wet dream is a mid-air explosion of a plane leaving Ben-Gurion Airport, preferably an El Al plane."
Sheftel is also in the habit of assaulting the media, calling outlets "media terrorists," and in another instance a "lowly and despicable gang of despicable media terrorists poisoning our wells."
Fans of Hapoel Tel-Aviv, known for their traditional ties to socialist left-wing politics were called by the noted attorney a "violent anti-Semitic gang," and Tel Aviv's Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium high school as spreading "anti-Zionist poison."
Responding to the demand to prosecute Sheftel for incitement to racism and violence, the Justice Ministry said that, while his comments were "jarring and hard to hear, this is not a case to be dealt with on the criminal plane, since the evidence does that show a real possibility that airing them could bring about violence."
"[The comments] are not directed at populations for the color of their skin, racial affiliation, or ethnic-national origin," the Justice Ministry added.
Responding to the appeal of one listener, Ministry official Dan Eldad said that, in view of the comments' severity, the matter was passed on to The Second Authority for Television and Radio, which will determine what measures against the host or station will be taken following a probe.
The Second Authority for Television affirmed that an investigation was in progress, adding that it intended to "probe the remarks with the value of free speech in mind, and with a fear of the possible injury to public sentiment or incitement to racism or violence."
Second Authority officials also stressed that the TV regulator appealed the station in the past over Sheftel's show, urging it to enforce self-restraint and find an appropriate balance between free speech and public safety.
103FM director general Eyal Pe'er said the station "will respond once the process is culminated."
Sheftel would not comment on the story.