The anti-BDS group Reservists on Duty has called on the state to halt funding for Israel Social Television, aired on Channel 98, after it released a report alleging the organization supports a boycott against Israel.
Amit Deri, chairman and founder of Reservists on Duty told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that it is “absurd that organizations acting against Israel, promoting BDS, like Social TV, receive funding from the State.”
“We look at this as a specific battle in a wider struggle against the absurd of funding organizations who work hand in hand with the hate system against Israel, with government money and national service positions,” he said.
Deri said his group appealed to both the Communications Ministry, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu currently heads, and the National Service, which provides funding to the Station for a number of volunteer positions, to halt funding.
Channel 2 reported that the director-general of the Communications Ministry, Shlomo Filber, announced he would halt funding for the organization in the wake of the report and due to what he described as the station’s work to “undermine the foundations of the state and provide a platform to delegitimize IDF soldiers.”
According to the Reservists on Duty report, “an in-depth examination of Social TV’s website reveals an online TV channel with a patently anti-Zionist perspective, which advocates the cessation of Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state.”
The organization further accused Social TV of serving “as a platform for Israeli BDS activists and various boycott initiatives, which it likewise supports and encourages, particularly by uploading essays and petitions calling for increased international pressure on Israel.”
The findings indicated that Social TV received some $1.1 million in funding between 2008-2014, including nearly $670,000 from European sources and almost $250,000 from the New Israel Fund.
The report lists numerous examples to back its allegations, citing news segments, interviews, petitions, and calls run by Social TV to support participation in the boycott against Israel, to promote the Arab “right of return,” encourage draft dodging, as well as delegitimizing the IDF and calling for the prosecution of soldiers.
Among the examples, the report stated that Social TV was a signatory to a letter calling on the Norwegian government to halt its investments in the Israeli company Elbit Systems, for its involvement in the security fence. The channel also published a petition in February 2015, signed by Social TV founder and chief editor Ehud Shem Tov, calling on Europe to increase pressure on Israel by boycotting products and imposing additional sanctions, the report stated.
With regards to the delegitimization of the IDF, the report referred to a number of TV segments and articles run by the site, equating IDF operations with war crimes.
One such example listed was from an article penned by Shem Tov during Operation Protective Edge in which he wrote, “Massacre... from air force bombings = state terror or organized terror.”
In a Facebook post written last week, Deri wrote: “Social TV is a network that promotes the boycott against Israel through various means. They air programs promoting refusal [to serve] in the IDF, cover BDS in a sympathetic way and promote their content. Only yesterday they promoted a movie by Roger Waters [one of the leaders of the movement].” “While you are reading these words, there is a TV representative on the Women’s ‘Flotilla’ to Gaza. The same Gaza where rockets were fired on Sderot’s children this morning,” he added.
Deri continued that the most “absurd” part is that “Social TV receives funding for four national service positions.”
“Can you believe it? An organization that promotes refusal, promotes the boycott, sends representatives to the Gaza ‘flotilla’ is supported by our hands. By all of us. Shame on us,” he wrote.
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, who is also responsible for National Service, issued a response to Deri’s post and said he instructed the director-general of National Service Shalom Gerbi to “immediately examine the ways to halt national service for those organizations operating against the State of Israel.”
“It is not reasonable and will not be. The State of Israel does not need to commit suicide, let alone from its budget,” he wrote.
Israel Social TV also issued a response in a very long Facebook post: “First of all, we can hope that the decisions taken by the director-general of the Communications Ministry and his staff are made after a thorough examination of the issues and under procedures, rules and regulations and not by pressure from political movements. If this is in fact his decision (which of course has no validity because it did not follow any proper procedure), we can certainly declare that another balloon was released into the air aimed to please a sympathetic audience, the likes of Miri Regev’s statements and additional friends in Netanyahu’s government.”
The organization said it is eligible for government funding because it meets “all the criteria for funding – which of course is not based on how the content is liked by viewers or government representatives.”
“The attempt by the Communications Ministry to silence critical voices and to intimidate by pulling funding, really suits the current general public atmosphere, but Social TV will not lend a hand to the attempts of intimidation and silencing,” the post read.
Social TV called on the communications minister to find an “article with incitement or problematic content” and explain what is problematic.
In the post, the organization also responded to the criticism that it covered the sailboat of female activists sailing to Gaza last week, and said it was able to do so because one of its volunteers participated in the “flotilla.”
“Many Israeli journalists stood in line to get on board the ‘flotilla’, including a reporter from Channel 2,” the organization wrote. “The allegation that Social TV sympathetically covered the ‘flotilla’ and as such is ‘undermining the foundations of the country and granting a stage to the delegitimization of IDF soldiers’ is simply outrageous.”
“The role of Social TV is to complete the picture that the viewer is exposed to by the central media outlets – those that penetrate every home due to the economic capacity that drives them, and present another view to all the issues, to allow viewers to form opinions, to challenge them and to allow a dialogue of all positions, opinions, and representation of groups that are not represented fairly,” the organization wrote.
The Communications Ministry did not respond to an inquiry by The Jerusalem Post.