[Audio below.] Israel’s Supreme Court has given Army Radio 60 days to explain why it refused to air a Yad L’Achim advertisement warning of missionaries.
“Neshama,” begins the ad, “don’t let them mess with your soul! In festivities planned for the upcoming [non-Jewish] holidays around the country, missionaries will be out in force trying to influence you to give up your religion. Don’t fall for it. Protect your proud Jewish identity!”
The ad concludes with the announcer giving the phone number of Yad L’Achim’s hotline.
The broadcast was nixed by Army Radio on the grounds that as an organ of the army “we cannot air anything that offends the religious sensibilities of this or that segment of the public, even if it is a minority.”
Furthermore, added the radio station, Yad L’Achim’s activities “whether or not they are legal and legitimate, are the subject of an ideological debate among the general public and therefore, as a military body, we cannot air this kind of broadcast.”
In response, attorney Yoram Sheftel, on behalf of Yad L’Achim, fired off a letter attacking the decision and clarifying that “a public-service message warning Jews of anti-Semitic, missionary activity in their midst does not harm the religious sensibilities of any group in the Israeli public.”
But Yad L’Achim’s request fell on deaf ears. The radio station’s legal counsel responded, among other things, that “a public military radio station cannot be turned into an arena in which those supporting missionaries and cults do battle against those opposing them.”
Moreover, added the military lawyer, the broadcast contains a message that “is likely to arouse fear and panic among the public.”
In a carefully reasoned petition to the High Court, Yad L’Achim argued that Army Radio is a public broadcasting company and the advertisement is protected by laws ensuring freedom of expression. The petition cites a host of precedents to this effect.
“Does Army Radio really believe that combating missionary activity is ‘the subject of an ideological debate in the public,’ as it claims in its letter to Yad L’Achim,” asks the petition.
“Furthermore, the claim that the broadcast ‘is likely to arouse fear and panic among the public’ is outrageous. Do the respondents seriously believe that this public-service message would cause panic among the public?
“The answer is obvious.”
The High Court accepted Yad L’Achim’s petition and gave Army Radio 60 days to respond.
Yad L’Achim chairman Rav Shalom Dov Lifschitz expressed his hope that his organization would prevail in court and that “the important broadcasts that are aimed at opening the eyes of the public will prevent innocent Jews from falling into the arms of the missionaries.”
Click below to listen to the ad that was rejected:
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