Israeli Army Radio Host Fired for Facebook Post on Killing at Bedouin Village

Khen Almaleh expressed understanding for any attempt to run over police evicting people from their homes.

Khen Almaleh, an Army Radio host fired for her comments on the killing at Umm al-Hiran, January 2017.
Noa Yafe

An Army Radio host has been fired for writing on her Facebook page that she would “also run over a policeman if they were evacuating me from my home.”

Khen Almaleh, a civilian freelancer at the radio station, was referring to the incident in the southern town of Umm al-Hiram on Wednesday in which police sergeant Erez Levi was run over and killed by a car driven by a local resident, Yakub Abu al-Kiyan.

The police called it a car-ramming, but video shows that Abu al-Kiyan might have been shot first, forcing him to lose control of the vehicle. The police were there to oversee the eviction of Bedouin who had put up structures illegally.

Following harsh criticism, Almaleh deleted her Hebrew-language post, but senior Army Radio official Nadav Ravid saw a screen grab and told Almaleh she was fired. Army Radio commander Yaron Dekel tweeted: “Anyone who expresses support for running over a policeman has no place in Army Radio.”

The station added that there was no room there “for a broadcaster who expresses support for the intentional running over of a policeman. It was therefore decided to immediately end ties with Almaleh.”

Almaleh has had problems with her bosses before. The last time was in March, when she broadcast the song “Every Land” by the band 47Soul that contains a call for the end of the occupation. Almaleh was summoned for a hearing in Ravid’s office.

In a Facebook post Thursday, Almaleh said she had deleted her original post because “what was left of it was a violent headline without the possibility of holding a complex discussion on the violence against citizens. They’re all victims, the evacuees and the police. The worst crimes are committed under the law.”

A similar controversy has happened before – when a soldier was dismissed from Army Radio after he published an op-ed in Haaretz. He was told soldiers in uniform should not express political opinions in the media.

Almaleh’s long post Thursday contained harsh criticism of Army Radio, especially its commander. “This is a great lesson about our society, the power structures that allow such behavior, Ashkenazim and Mizrahim and all the weak groups here,” she wrote, referring to Jews with roots in Europe and the Middle East, respectively.

She said the lesson was about “the boundaries of freedom of expression and the ease with which things become fictitious headlines and are taken out of context. It’s about justice, total, for everyone. I’m not the story here, but I’ll take this opportunity and tell your story, that of the victims.”

Both senior and junior people at Army Radio harshly criticized Almaleh’s dismissal, especially the speed with which it was done. “Yaron Dekel made serial mistakes in this story,” one person said.

The speed “conveyed hysterics that go against the responsible conduct required of a director. His motive was to please the defense minister and [right-wing leader] Naftali Bennett. He didn’t conduct a hearing for her as required by law,” the Army Radio employee said.

“The worst thing is the silencing of people, and by a journalist yet. The thing is, nobody asked him to do this, so he comes out looking ingratiating. This is the way he’s been managing Army Radio all these years, like a political wheeler-dealer in the governing coalition.”

According to people at Army Radio, Almaleh had not been happy with her program at the station and was trying to inject a new spirit. Ravid reportedly appreciated Almaleh’s musical knowledge but said a number of times that she needed to express herself properly for a public radio station. Still, conversations between the two were reportedly friendly and contained no warnings.

Unlike the dismissal of Army Radio film critic Gidi Orsher for racially disparaging remarks, the Almaleh case has hardly been commented on by politicians. The only minister who responded was public security chief Gilad Erdan, who backed the dismissal and tweeted: “This is the way to act. There is no tolerance or understanding for murder and terror.”

As Erdan put it, “A broadcaster on public radio whose salary comes from the Public Security Ministry was fired because on the day a policeman was murdered in a terror attack she showed understanding of his murder and its motives.”