Channel 20: An Illegal Outpost on Our Television Screens

By displaying an Israeli flag every second of every day, the cable station – which is supposed to broadcast Jewish content, not right-wing propaganda – looks more like the state-run channel in some dictatorial Arab regime.

Channel 20 is the only television station in Israel which proudly waves a political flag. It is blatantly right wing. Sharon Gal was one of its presenters, until he joined Avigdor Lieberman's party and started to issue blood-chilling warnings to Arab Knesset members; the stomach churns just to hear the language that Gal used. Ar'el Segal, Zvi Yehezkeli, Kalman Liebskind and Avri Gilad – card-carrying members of right-leaning stream of the mainstream media – are the channel's stars. The channel itself is part of the inevitable trend of increasingly rightist content in Israeli news broadcasts.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that Channel 20 has applied strict political conditions to its choice of presenters; it has yet to find a suitable candidate with left-leaning credentials. The problem is that Channel 20 is not supposed to deal with current affairs. Its mandate is to provide content about Judaism. Those were the terms of the tender it won and which it is now flagrantly ignoring – much as the hilltop youth in the West Bank ignores the law. Only the intervention of the chairman of the Central Election Committee prevented Channel 20 from broadcasting the right-wing demonstration at Rabin Square four days before the election. Channel 20 is cable television's version of an illegal outpost.

And like every other outpost, it proudly waves the Israeli flag. Literally: In the corner of the screen Channel 20 has a strategically placed Israeli flag. It has been designed to look as if it's blowing gently in the breeze. The same flag that we salute and we drape over the coffins of fallen soldiers. What on earth is it doing in the corner of Channel 20's screen?

Does Channel 20 want its viewers to stand to attention and salute? Does is have pretentions of representing the real Israel, the nationalist Israel, in a landscape dominated by treacherous leftist channels? Is watching Channel 20 akin to swearing an oath of allegiance to the state?

Even Israel Hayom does not print the Israeli flag on all of its pages. Army radio does not begin each day's broadcasts with a rendition of the national anthem. Is it considered unpatriotic to watch a television station that does not have the national flag on the screen every minute of every day? Is there some law that obligates Israeli TV channels to display the flag? Every time I see that flag on my screen, I want to cover it up or tear it down. Ironically, it reminds me of state-run television channels in some dictatorial Arab country.

This is just another fascistic symbol that is permeating our lives.