On Sunday, Yizhar Ashdot, a famous Israeli singer-songwriter, was at the Army Radio studio tuning up his guitar for an on air performance of his newest album.
But before he went on air, he says, he got a sudden request from the radio administration. Your album “A Matter of Habit,” radio officials said, don’t play the title song.
Here are some of the lyrics of the song: “learning how to kill – you just need some momentum. Start off small, and then it comes…You cock your weapon and your arm trembles…they’re not men or women, they’re just an object, a shadow. Learning how to kill is a matter of routine.”
Ashdot, the musician, explained the song on Israeli TV.
“I have a problem with calling something a protest song or a political song,” he said. “This song talks about what happens to our kids when they enter the army.”
The Israeli army commander who heads the station said he censored the song from the live on-air performance because he didn’t want to celebrate a song that denounces those who have sacrificed their lives to defend the country. “Besides,” he said, “why would a station run by soldiers play a song demonizing those soldiers?”
Israeli dovish parliament member Zahava Galon protested the censorship on the nightly news.
“I am pretty astounded,” she said. “Where have we come to that in Israel we are censoring songs?”
In the same TV story, hawkish politician Naftali Bennett retorted. “This song is going to go straight to the Hezbollah station al manar,” he said, “because this is exactly the kind of ammunition our enemies need.”
It’s a tricky issue. On the one hand, Army Radio’s music station is the country’s most popular. Every artist looking for a hit hopes for airtime on the station.
On the other hand, it’s a radio run by soldiers, in a country where most citizens are compelled to serve. It’s not surprising a radio station run by soldiers wouldn’t want to air a provocative song about soldiers.
But that’s the thing. Army Radio has played the song before. They played it 2 weeks ago. They played it last week. And radio management says they may decide to play it again.
A DJ at the station said he put in a request to play the song on his show tomorrow, but the request was rejected. So, he says, he’s going to play another newly released single that’s just as critical.
Even at Israel’s army radio station, where your boss is also your commander, there are some dissenting DJs.