Voice of Israel government radio, which is part of the state-regulated Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA), banned on Tuesday commercials urging attendance at memorial services for murdered former Knesset Member Rabbi Meir Kahane. His family said it will sue the government.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, a Knesset aide to MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari (National Union), warned that if the IBA does not cancel the ban, he will demand that it also prohibit commercials calling on the public to attend memorial services this week for former Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin.
The radio network yanked the ads after receiving complaints from listeners, including Peace Now, and explained its decision by saying that the issue of Rabbi Kahane is too “controversial.” The commercial featured a one-sentence statement by MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari, who urged people to attend the services on the 19th anniversary of his death this Thursday. There was no reference in the ad to the history, life or political views of Rabbi Kahane.
Yariv Oppenheimer, director of Peace Now, told the IBA that the mention of Kahane’s named on the air represents a reference to his ideas, which Oppenheimer called “racist” and involved in political controversy.
After he was elected to the legislature, the Knesset banned him and later outlawed his Kach movement, which promoted mass aliyah of American Jews to Israel and favored paying Arabs to leave the country. He was murdered during a speaking engagement in New York City in 1990.
The Kahane family’s lawyer, Rahamim Cohen, said he will sue the government regulatory authority for discrimination and will appeal its decision to the High Court. He called the ban on the commercial “surrender to extreme left-wing reports.”
Voice of Israel government radio officially is mandated to maintain a balance of views, but media watchdogs have continually documented and complained about bias against Orthodox Jews, strong action against terrorism, and those who favor a State of Israel that includes all of eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and the Golan Heights.
IBA director Mordechai Sklar stated that his decision was based on fears that MK Dr. Ben-Ari wants to encourage a public debate on Rabbi Kahane’s views and his outlawed Kach movement.
Tuesday's ban was not the first time the radio network has blocked commercials by nationalists. Last week, the High Court ordered the IBA radio network to remove its prohibition against use of the word "expulsion" in commercials by the Gush Katif Museum, which used the term to refer to the government's forced removal of more than 9,000 Jews from Jewish communities in Gaza four years ago.
Later Tuesday, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said he will cancel a Knesset address that was scheduled for Wednesday by MK Ben-Ari in memory of Rabbi Kahane.