Commentary on the Commentary: Army music

Army Radio was criticized for barring a live performance by a singer who had written a song accusing soldiers of being brutish.

Israel Radio, Army Radio_311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)
Israel Radio, Army Radio_311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)
Israel is a funny country; things that would be unconscionable or obvious elsewhere are often considered up for debate here. For instance two weeks ago the country’s Army Radio decided not to have a live performance by a singer who had written a song accusing Israelis soldiers of being brutish and numb to their actions. “They’re not a man, not a woman, they’re just an object, just a shadow. To learn to kill is a matter of habit.” In some countries it might be considered normal that a government run radio station founded for soldiers would not play a song that condemns the soldiers as killers who can’t differentiate humanity from objects; in Israel the decision was criticized as an affront to freedom of expression.
As Liat Collins noted in her column: “Aviv Geffen backs Ashdot in a piece in Yediot Ahronot, ‘Iranization doesn’t happen in a day, it starts with a song and is likely to end with us.” Eytan Meyersdorf of Im Tirzu wrote an oped noting that “if Ashdot wants to perform on a privately owned station he is well within his rights, but not on Army radio.” Meyersdorf reminded readers of how strange it would be for the station to have played the song as soldiers are exiting to go on a 72-hour patrol.
Army Radio may be center of a hard-to-believe debate about freedom of expression, but Moshe Kaveh’s article on the brain drain is more serious. Kaveh, the president of Bar-Ilan University, notes that “during the last decade we lost 1,000 brilliant minds to universities around the world.” Meanwhile Leslie Wagner wrote an article pondering why Israel doesn't have more universities. Obviously if the country cannot find jobs for its graduates in the academy there is no reason to assume that they would stay in the country, crossing their fingers that one day they might get a position as a junior lecturer at one of seven universities in the country. Erica Garb contributed an article about Israel’s low performance on standardized tests. Obviously education problems begin in grade school, if the country cannot improve learning levels in high school brain drain may not be a problem, because there will be no brains to drain.
The big shocker last week was the announcement by Yisrael Beitenu and the Likud that they would run on a joint list in the upcoming elections. In theory this would cement Israel’s Right as a mega-party, however others wonder whether the two combined parties will actually achieve the same number of mandates in the election. The Jerusalem Post’s writers also wondered about what will come of other parties and whether electoral reform is on the horizon. In his article Nuclear physics and Israeli politics, MK Arieh Eldad called for the unification of the National Religious camp into a single party and also examined the history of that camp’s failures and successes at the polls over the years. At the same time lawyer Daniel Goldman argued in favor of having regional representation in the Knesset. Yarden Gazit of the Jerusalem Institute of Market Studies wrote a fascinating article reminding readers that all of the political promises about housing and money also must have a plan for how to pay for them.
Our friendly region also came in for the usual analysis. Isi Leibler wrote a major article on the Islamification of Turkey.  He noted that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policies have been a long time coming, and that he has only gotten worse the longer he is in office; suppressing protest and the press. Leibler argues that America was the key to pressuring Turkey to stop its verbal attacks on Israel. Likewise James Van de Velde of Johns Hopkins University argued that timidity is allowing Syria’s Bashir Assad to get away with its crimes against civilians.  “The US used to be the champion of the oppressed…Obama seems arrested by policy uncertainty.”
Readers know that US elections are coming up, and if they haven’t been following them, the columns by Charles Krauthammer and Gil Troy kept them informed as to what was happening in the last debates. This week Americans go to the polls and a winner will be known by Wednesday. With elections also coming up in Israel, these are certainly changing times. A BBC World Service broadcast last week wondered whether a peace agreement was in the air despite all the rockets being fired from Gaza last week, but it might be worth remembering that no agreement can come into being while the government and its Knesset members are off campaigning.