Israeli Army Radio tells musician not to a play title single in live performance

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Yizhar Ashdot performs in September 2008. Ashdot ignited a controversy when Israel's Army Radio told him not to play a song. (Photo by Noa Cafri via Wikimedia Commons.)

Yizhar Ashdot, a famous Israeli singer-songwriter, was at the Army Radio studio over the weekend, tuning up his guitar for an on-air performance of his newest album.

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But just before he went on air, he says he got a sudden request from the radio administration. His 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 told Israeli TV that his song wasn't meant as a protest — not as a political song.

“This song talks about what happens to our kids when they enter the army," he said.

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 an interview with Israeli TV, hawkish politician Naftali Bennett disagreed.

“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 to get air time on the station.

On the other hand, it’s a radio station 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 two 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.

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