Micha Friedman – good or bad for Army Radio?

Media Comment: It is not surprising that Friedman feels at home in an army radio station which allows him to make sure the station does not serve the needs of the army. Indeed, under such circumstances our country would be better off without the station altogether.

Ian McEwan is interviewed by an army radio reporter (photo credit: REUTERS)
Ian McEwan is interviewed by an army radio reporter
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Micha Friedman is one of the most influential anchors on Army Radio, the IDF radio station. In contrast to many others, Friedman, born in 1948, did not start his media career as a soldier. He was a paratrooper and participated in the fighting during the Yom Kippur War. His radio career starts in the early Eighties, and ever since, he has been a civilian employee of Army Radio. Incidentally, the vast majority of Army Radio anchors are civilians.
Friedman’s morning program, airing at 7 a.m., sets the agenda for almost the rest of the day. He competes successfully with the IBA’s Arye Golan in the parallel slot. In contrast to Golan, who has usurped the public microphone and opens his program every morning with his personal thoughts, Friedman seems to present to the world the image of the professional anchor, who asks the tough questions and whose sole purpose is to bring to his audience the news as is. But all is not as it seems.
Last February, the IBA’s Yaron Dekel was appointed to head Army Radio. At the time, Friedman was interviewed by Globes correspondent Roi Barak. His views regarding the station impressively demonstrate his lack of ability to understand public dissatisfaction with it. According to Friedman, “Galei Zahal [Army Radio] is an excellent station and there is no reason why it should not continue as such.” He went on to say that “one cannot claim that the army radio station is a conscripted station. In no way can one describe the station as serving only the needs of the army.”
Friedman was hurt by the online MyIsrael social media campaign against the station. In his words, “This contemptible campaign against Galatz, whose headline was that the station is a ‘knife in the back of the soldiers’ is a terrible phenomenon.
"The fact that so few people disassociated themselves from this campaign has hurt me personally, also as someone whose children gave their soul to their country in the army. The attempt to describe us as traitors is despicable and terrible. I dare to think that some of the people who initiated this campaign don’t really try to listen to Galatz.”
With this as context, it was very interesting to follow an interview conducted by Friedman on November 20, in the midst of the war with Hamas, with Amit, a soldier who on that day was entering the army, and his mother. We thank Talya Mann for bringing this interview to our attention.
Between “Red Alert” announcements notifying the public of imminent rocket impacts, Friedman asked the following questions, in an overly persistent manner: “Are you enthusiastic about entering a battle? Are you familiar with this question which is being asked not only of civilians entering the army but also soldiers in active duty who want to participate in the big game? There is a war in Gaza, do you in your fantasy wish that you were there? And let’s say that you were there, what do you think should be done in this war? What should be the purpose that the State of Israel has to define for itself as well as for you the soldiers who participate in it? Do you have trust [in your commanders]?”
Friedman then questions the soldier’s mother: “When your son is drafted in the middle of a war which does not seem as if it is going to end soon, at least according to the events of this morning, is this not a clue as to what he should expect in the future? Doesn’t your heart flutter? This war has now turned into a personal one for you, you know you watched it together with the children.... Listen, more or less all of the Negev, you hear, we hear together in response to the red alert [sirens]... You heard the boy who said that he too wants to partake in this story, of course this will not happen, but I am talking about his fantasies or things that guide him and you don’t say Amit, calm down, take care of yourself... As a mother and a citizen these are conflicts of interest.”
And he ends with “Rachel Kedmi, Amit Kedmi, thank you, and hopefully things will be better, what else can we say on such a morning.”
We purposefully cite the questions asked by Friedman and not the answers given by the soldier and his mother. This is because it is the questions that are revealing here.
Consider: Friedman relates to the young soldier as a “boy,” he does not have much respect for the “boy’s” mindset or thinking. His questions indicate that serving in the army is a conflict, while one of the basic tenets of Zionism is that the time has come for the Jews to take up arms and defend themselves.
Of course, defending yourself is dangerous business, everyone knows that, yet many consider serving in the army to be an honor, nonetheless. Many mothers worry about their children, yet they educate them to volunteer for the toughest of duties.
Is not Friedman attempting to instill defeatism in his questions to this young conscript? Is this the task of an Army Radio employee at a time in which the Jewish people have to fight for their very existence? As noted above, Friedman does not feel that the station serves the army. For him it is “a war,” not “our war.” Friedman could have phrased his questions very differently and they would have still remained interesting. Some would “stabbing the army in the back” to be an apt description of Friedman’s interview.
Moreover, this interview is not the only such incident. Friedman has little respect for the ethics code which demands complete separation between news and views. Responding in September to the travails of Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov, Friedman added at the end of the program, among the standard credits to the various editors, “and for drinks and a good time, Stas Meseznikov.”
Like his counterpart Arye Golan, Friedman does not hesitate to make his personal opinion known – and it usually is left-of-center.
For example, in September 2009, he called Minister Moshe Ya’alon a political UFO, because Ya’alon attacked the Israeli Left. Army Radio’s ombudsman, who received a complaint from Adi Arbel, defended Friedman. Friedman does not like the ultra-Orthodox.
In July he commented that a program reviewing the Second Lebanon War would “most likely not have haredim on it.” Moshe Finkel complained and Army Radio responded by saying they were sorry if some listeners were offended by the comments.
It is not surprising that Friedman feels at home in an army radio station which allows him to make sure the station does not serve the needs of the army. But if Army Radio doesn’t serve the needs of the army, why are soldiers conscripted to it? Indeed, under such circumstances our country would be better off without the station altogether.
The authors are respectively vice-chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch (www.imw.org.il).