No Airtime for Draft Dodgers, Israel's Popular Army Radio Told by Defense Minister

Incoming Galatz commander instructed not to play music by conscientious objectors or even interview them

Israeli soldier broadcasting at Galgalatz, the pop music station run by Galatz, Israel's popular army radio station
David Bachar

Is Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman trying to set new rules for Army Radio? Lieberman met with new commander of the station, Shimon Elkabetz, and instructed him to adopt a series of new rules, Channel 2 reported Monday evening.

The first rule Lieberman gave is that people who refused to serve in the Israel Defense Forces for reasons of conscience (conscientious objector) are not to be interviewed and their songs are not be played on the station. This would mean that popular Israeli musicians like Aviv Gefen would no longer get airtime.

During the tenure of outgoing commander Yaron Dekel, there was an uproar over Culture Minister Miri Regev’s demand that more Middle Eastern music be added to the station’s playlist. Dekel was accused of allowing politics into the station. Now, according the Channel 2 report, Lieberman instructed Elkabetz to include more Middle Eastern music on both the news-oriented Galatz and its popular music sister station, Galgalatz.

About a year ago, Lieberman summoned Dekel after Army Radio broadcast poems by Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish. However, the defense minister has not interfered over the station’s content since then.

In 2015, then-Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein stated that Regev could not interfere with the content selected by the station. “The authority to determine the content to be broadcast by the station rests in the hands of the professionals at the station, and there is no place for interference by political elements certainly not by the culture minister,” he wrote.

Dekel's predecessor, Avi Benayahu, made an effort to bring a more diverse staff into the station. Lieberman and Elkabetz have now reportedly decided to increase the representation of Russian-origin staff members from Israel's outlying areas. They have also decided to move the station to Jerusalem. Dekel had been spearheading a plan to move the station to Lod.

Elkabetz took over as commander last week. He previously managed other radio stations and was a reporter for Army Radio. He also headed the cultural administration in the Culture Ministry.

Army Radio and the defense minister’s office declined to comment on the meeting.