PMO might snub draft-dodger artists

Exclusive: Mayors back 'affirmative action' campaign, Olmert adviser says.

ivri lider 88 298 (photo credit: Courtesy)
ivri lider 88 298
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Amid a growing backlash against entertainers who evade IDF service, the Prime Minister's Office is considering publishing a blacklist of such artists so that local councils will know not to hire them for official celebration events. The prime minister's adviser for social affairs, Vered Swid, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday she has been urging mayors nationwide "to take affirmative action on behalf of artists who have served their country" and that this suggestion had been accepted by every local council head she had contacted. She said the initiative was particularly important ahead of the celebrations for Israel's 60th anniversary of independence next spring. Along with Adi Eldar, head of the National Union of Local Authorities, Swid, a former mayor of Netanya, has received the support of the mayors of Hadera, Kfar Saba, Rosh Ha'ayin, Beersheba, Pardesia, Lod, Ramle and others. She told the Post that because local council chiefs were saying they needed to know who they should and shouldn't hire, she was considering publishing a list of artists who did not serve in the IDF. "I believe most cities will ultimately join this initiative," Swid said. The government would have to consider taking steps to thwart the process by which young Israelis who had avoided army service were able to begin higher education earlier than those who had served, Swid said. "I think that in the future we will have to look into the question of [having] colleges and institutions of higher education not accept students who instead of going to the army prefer to start their studies earlier," she said. Swid spoke amid controversy over the cancellation of a "Friends of the IDF" tribute concert, scheduled for this Thursday in Rishon Lezion, by singer Ivri Lider. Lider's agent, Roni Arditi, said the singer, who did not serve in the IDF, was asked to put his name to a letter declaring he "likes the IDF and respects its values." He reportedly refused to do so, and his participation in the concert was canceled. Arditi added: "Ivri Lider was drafted to the IDF and was released due to medical reasons. During the 10 years of his career, he performed dozens of times at military bases, posts and hospitals, and especially in the course of the Second Lebanon War, when he volunteered and did as much as he could to encourage the soldiers. Ivri plans to continue volunteering, as was agreed in the past with the IDF authorities." The IDF's OC Education Corps, Brig.-Gen. Eli Shermayster said no such demand was made, but that Lider was told that he would have to begin counting his performances for soldiers as reserve duty. In a statement, the IDF said it was "not busy [witch] hunting artists, but rather recruiting them to reserve duty in their civilian profession." The IDF "appreciates Lider and would be happy to see him performing in the future on different occasions, just like many artists who were released from the army because of medical reasons, and who understand the importance of [carrying out] their reserve duty when the opportunity arises," according to the statement. The trend of avoiding IDF service has been a subject of heated debate since the IDF published data last month showing one in four potential male recruits was not serving. IDF OC Human Resources Maj.-Gen. Elazar Stern has made draft dodging one of his focuses, barring artists who evaded army service from performing for soldiers. Stern has declared that draft dodger celebrities weaken Israeli society, and has suggested that TV shows likely to present role models for the country's youth introduce the threshold criteria of military service. (The latest group of contestants on Kochav Nolad - A Star is Born - includes several draft dodgers.) Several PR and advertising agencies have said they will not hire draft dodgers to front campaigns. And a Parents Forum campaign has collected signatures demanding that Defense Minister Ehud Barak crack down on the phenomenon. The new IDF spokesman, Brig.-Gen. Avi Benayahu, who until recently ran Army Radio, said the station would continue to play songs by artists who had avoided service, but that they would not be invited to perform at special events the station covers and promotes.