An Open Letter regarding the Television License granted by Israel Television to Christian Evangelical Groups
May 24, 2006 —
President Moshe Katzav
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
Ambassador Danny Ayalon
The Rabbinical Council of America and
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America
Dear President Katzav, Prime Minister Olmert, and Ambassador Ayalon,
We are writing you, in the name of the Rabbinical Council of America and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, representing nearly 1000 Orthodox rabbis and congregations worldwide, to express our shock and dismay at the news reports (as reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on May 15, 2006) that the Israeli Communications Ministry has granted TV broadcast privileges to an evangelical organization whose apparent purpose is to convert Jews to Christianity.
With their Israeli TV license, the U.S. based Daystar company will, in effect, be attempting to convert Jews around the clock. The Daystar organization declares that it cost them one million dollars to obtain this license, but that it was worth it, since now they will be able to reach every home in Israel, and will preach the Gospel day and night.
While we fully understand the requirements of a democratic state, there are limits to freedom of the press and freedom of the airwaves. Moreover, there is a difference between the protected rights of the individual, and privileges such as access to the airwaves granted by governments. Many nations deny broadcast licenses to organizations due to the repugnant nature of their activities, even though every individual person in that country might have the right to engage in this activity.
For example, many nations, including Israel, would deny a license to a television station that broadcast even legally protected hate speech, because it undermines the coherence of society. And no civilized government would permit enemies of the state to broadcast enemy propaganda on its airwaves. Similarly, the Jewish state violates no principles of democracy if it refuses to grant freedom of the airwaves to those whose apparent purpose – despite their protestations that they are preaching only to Christians – is to undermine the most elementary components of Jewish identity, to encourage Jews to abandon their heritage, and ultimately to undermine the Jewish character of the State. Israel, after all, was founded as a refuge for Jews and their Jewishness. For a Jewish state to grant official license to those who would dilute and distort that Jewishness is not only ludicrous; it is spiritual suicide. This is true even though we recognize that every individual citizen in Israel has the right to practice his faith as he sees fit.
Israel has serious problems retaining the loyalty of its youth to the fundamentals of their Jewish identity. Violence plagues Israeli schools; ignorance of Israel’s history is rampant; basic patriotism and loyalty to the state is on the decline; the Bible is a closed book for many of our young people. Does Israel now need to encourage further weakening of the Jewishness of our citizens?
We strongly protest this action on the part of the Israeli government. We sincerely trust that wiser counsel will prevail, and that a way will be found to revoke this license and thus to restore the self-respect of the Jewish state.
Rabbi Dale Polakoff
President, Rabbinical Council of America
Stephen J. Savitsky
President, The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America