Israeli Army Fumes at Its Own Radio Station Over 'Fake News' About Banned Anthem

Army Radio criticized for repeating story about Betar Movement anthem supposedly being banned from ceremony marking the sinking of the Altalena in 1948

The Army Radio building in Jaffa.
Tomer Appelbaum

An Israel Defense Forces spokesperson accused Army Radio of broadcasting “fake news” on Monday, after one of its anchors repeated a story about a Zionist youth movement’s anthem being banned at an official ceremony.

“It’s upsetting to see how the IDF’s radio station has once again chosen to broadcast fake news with the goal of harming the IDF, the people who serve in it and its values, and without checking the item before it was aired,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement, referring to a program by broadcaster Erel Segal.

At the start of his program on Monday, Segal commented on a report by Channel 20 television that an Education Corps troupe had been forbidden from singing the Betar Movement’s anthem at a ceremony in memory of those killed aboard the Altalena – a ship ferrying arms to Israel during the War of Independence in 1948. Then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion ordered the IDF to open fire on the ship because it belonged to the Irgun, a pre-state militia affiliated with Betar and led by his political rival, Menachem Begin.

Segal said he didn’t know if the incident reported by Channel 20 “involved censorship,” but he was “already accustomed to asking the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit for responses on such issues.” That prompted the unit’s ire.

In its statement, the spokesperson’s unit denied that the troupe was forbidden to sing the anthem. “The Betar anthem wasn’t included in the agreed repertoire of songs for the event, and the singer wasn’t given a chance to learn the song’s words so it wasn’t performed,” the statement read. “The IDF has no ban on singing the Betar anthem.”

This isn’t the first time Segal’s program has included criticism of the IDF. For instance, when he interviewed Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev earlier this month, she termed it “an embarrassment” that IDF events commemorating last week’s 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War celebrated the “unification” of Jerusalem rather than its “liberation.”

Relations between the army and its radio station have been tense recently because the IDF had sought to divest itself of the station and transfer it to the Defense Ministry. But its decision to carry out the transfer has been canceled, so the station currently remains part of the IDF.