The Military Radio Station Is Too Political? What About the Army Itself

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The shadow of an Israeli soldier wearing a face mask to help protect against the coronavirus, is cast onto the side of a vehicle, Jan. 21, 2021.
The shadow of an Israeli soldier wearing a face mask to help protect against the coronavirus, is cast onto the side of a vehicle, Jan. 21, 2021. Credit: AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

It was my home, for four years: The shabby building on Yehuda Hayamit Street in Jaffa. IDF Radio, all the time; my finest years, my sweet memories, between the omelette at Davidovich’s and the legendary sergeant major Badosa. Even back then they were threatening to close the station, which had just then started broadcasting 24 hours a day.

It is doubtful whether they will ever do it. But the threat this is time is especially hypocritical and self-righteous. This is how Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who says he wants to take the station out of the IDF’s hands, at the request of Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, phrased it:

“Soldiers in uniform will not be involved in politics in any position, it is completely unacceptable, it violates the values of the IDF.” Once again the “IDF’s values.”

Israeli conscripts walk into the IDF radio station building in Jaffa, June 21, 2011.Credit: David Bachar

It is true there are not many armies in the world that are as political as the IDF, and there are not a lot of soldiers in uniform whose duties are mostly to carry out political objectives. An occupying army is a political army by definition, none are more political.

An army whose soldiers conduct political arrests every night is a political army. An army whose soldiers defend thugs and land thieves, and abuse innocent residents just because of their nationality, is the mother of all political armies.

An army whose prosecutors and judges are enlisted in the effort to carry out dark political goals, is a political army. And now the defense minister and chief of staff are worried that soldiers in uniform should not be involved in politics. What a joke.

This is once again the well-known Israeli syndrome of dealing with the marginal in order to distract attention from the main issue.

Gantz and Kochavi are shocked that the military radio station has become political. Its purity of arms has been polluted. A station that was in essence the mothers’ voice, a school for the establishment, where the resemblance between it and real journalism was like that between the IDF Orchestra and music, or between the military prosecution and justice.

A station that represented so well the frightening pull to the right in Israeli society, and caused it, too, to a great extent; where the political debate is always between the moderate right and the extreme right, has suddenly become too political for Gantz and Kochavi.

Radio commentator Yaakov Bardugo desecrated its purity, as well as the purity of the soldiers in uniform. It is fine when soldiers shoot demonstrators and defend criminals, and that’s not political. Only Bardugo is political. What hypocrisy.

Israeli conscripts at work in the studios of the IDF radio station, Jaffa, November 2, 2015.Credit: David Bachar

IDF Radio has corrupted the media for years. Before the universities had media departments – political science was a discipline and journalism was not – and before colleges existed, the schools were IDF Radio and magazine Haolam Hazeh. The latter was the good one.

IDF Radio introduced the deceptive value of the holy balance in discourse, and educated generations of journalism cadets that it was okay that the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, a propaganda organization, approves every report on the IDF before it can be broadcast.

Even when we wanted to interview a Knesset member, we were required to get approval in advance from the IDF spokesperson. There were names, primarily from the radical left, who we were forbidden to interview. What was more serious was that we thought that was fine. Silence is journalism.

Israeli conscripts at work in the studios of the IDF radio station, Jaffa, November 2, 2015.Credit: David Bachar

IDF Radio was also a school for wittiness, another evil that turned into the main point. Generations of respected journalists came off of this production line, with the added embellishment of the end of youth. IDF Radio was the 8200 unit of today, the elite unit for conformists. Most of its graduates were the middle of the middle of enlisted Israeli journalism.

Bardugo is of course an inarticulate commentator of political messages. Listening to him reminds one of listening to the Voice of Thunder from Cairo. A cult.

I like to listen to him, like a cult. His place is not in a military radio station, just like the place of all the rest of them is not on a military radio station. In fact, there really is no such thing as a military station. And it cannot be allowed to exist, either.

The pretense that the Israeli military should be involved in education, culture, journalism and lately even health should have disappeared from the face of the earth a long time ago. The army is here to be an army. Israel needs to overcome its pretensions and lies. Should IDF Radio be shut down? Yes, why not, but the IDF has a number of much more urgent and important missions – such as becoming a nonpolitical army.

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