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Tuesday, October 21, 2003

URGENT: Read and Sign Petition to Legalize and Reopen Arutz Sheva (Channel 7 - Israel National News)

Over 4,000 signatures in the first 24 hours

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, Rabbi of the community of Brachah in the Shomron, head of the Hesder Yeshiva there, son of Rabbi Zalman and Shulamit Melamed, and Halakhic commentator on Arutz-7, delivered the following summation yesterday:

Over the course of years, the right-wing public in Israel felt great frustration. Many voices were heard in the media - post-Zionist, anti-religious, and others - while its voice was not heard. [Sephardic] music was off-limits, Hassidic music was relegated to a far-off isolated nature reserve on Reshet Aleph [a minor station of Voice of Israel], and Hebrew music, too, was neglected in favor of foreign music. Words of Torah were barely ever heard on the radio, and if they were, they were not heard freely or naturally. Arutz-7 showed that it could be done differently. It showed that there is a broad public that wants to hear different things, different songs.

Especially during the difficult years of the Rabin government and the Oslo Agreements, all the established media continued to sound the post-Zionist and anti-religious stance, and were dragged along in praising the 'golden calf' of peace and the PLO terrorists. It was practically only Arutz-7 that sounded the sane voice [against Oslo] that later so painfully and bloodily proved to be true. Arutz-7 was the voice of the 'good Jews' who honor the Torah and Jewish tradition, and who volunteer and give of themselves wherever it's needed. If help is needed for new immigrants, they help; if people are needed to enlist in combat positions in the army, they enlist; and when the land has to be settled, they settle. Even if real self-sacrifice is involved, or if it's not popular, they're there. It was always Arutz-7 that gave coverage to these and many other important causes that had no chance of being covered in the public media.

For many years, Arutz-7 invested tremendous amounts of money to purchase and maintain a ship, in order to broadcast from outside the territorial waters and in order not to violate the law. Unlike Abie Natan, who many times broadcast [his left-wing Voice of Peace programs] from a ship anchored on the shore, we always went out to the waves and broadcast from the sea. As long as Abie Natan broadcast, Arutz-7 managers knew that they were protected...

During its 15 years, Arutz-7 succeeded, to a certain extent, in influencing the programming of the other stations. They realized they had no choice but to compete with us, and therefore were forced to broadcast more Hebrew, mid-eastern and Hassidic music. They were also forced to put on more people identified with the right-wing. The regional stations [which began several years ago] were also started largely to compete with Arutz-7, and perhaps also to provide a solution to the broad public that, thanks to Arutz-7, everyone now realized did not have a strong enough voice on the other stations. The situation thus improved, but was still very far from satisfactory and balanced. The voice of the right and the religious is still not heard fairly...

The management of Arutz-7 and its supporters did everything they could to attain legal recognition and be able to broadcast, from land, the important and central voice of Torah, the nation, and the land. A law was even passed in the Knesset - but the Supreme Court, in a practically unprecedented decision, overturned it. Many initiatives to legalize Arutz-7 were raised, but were thwarted by Justice Ministry lawyers and others who objected to any type of solution. Even when it was decided that Arutz-7 could compete in a tender for regional radio, the membership of the committee was changed at the last minute so that it would not choose Arutz-7. In the meanwhile, the reception in Jerusalem remained very difficult, as in other parts of the country, while advertising revenue dropped - but maintenance of the ship remained at its regular constant high, some 4 million shekels a year.

Despite the difficulties, Arutz-7 management always received support from throngs of listeners who told them how important the station is to them. Public leaders, too, including the Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers, talked nobly of Arutz-7's invaluable contribution to the public discourse. They of course promised that when they reached power, they would arrange the licensing of Arutz-7. To our great sorrow, their promise did not materialize. The station's managers were put on trial, while our friends who were helped by the station ascended to power, settled into their government seats - and became silent. The trial continued, the legislative process stopped - and the Arutz-7 leaders were convicted.

Given this situation, the heads of the station can no longer bear the heavy burden of continuing the broadcasts. On this sad day, when all the leaders of Arutz-7 are convicted, and the Prime Minister and the ministers are silent, we were forced to stop the broadcasts.

Our disappointment in the politicians and their promises is very great - especially in the ruling party, the Likud. But we still have great confidence in the great spirit and conscience of the broad public. Our own strength may have been diminished - but if the public feels that its voice must be allowed to be sounded without distortion, then everyone should act however he feels appropriate in order to influence the elected representatives to enable Arutz-7 to continue broadcasting.