Israel pulls plug on GOD TV over accusations of missionizing

Hebrew-speaking station’s license suspended due to illicit attempts to convert Jews to Christianity.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Israel’s cable TV authority suspended the license of Israel’s first evangelical station Thursday after determining that the channel was purveying Christian content in an effort to convert Jews away from their faith, in contrast to their license request.

The Shelanu (“Ours” in Hebrew) channel, which is run by the global GOD-TV network, had gained a seven-year license to run on Hot, Israel’s primary cable provider, in late April. According to the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council (CSBC), regular air-time was okayed because in its formal request, it was “written explicitly that the channel is intended for the Christian population.”

However, CSBC head Asher Biton said that a review of the show found that “the channel continued to appeal to Jews through efforts to teach them about the principles of Christian/Jewish messianic faith and to convince them of its validity.”

While proselytizing adults is legal in Israel, it is heavily frowned upon since Jewish history is replete with whole communities of Jews throughout Europe being forced to convert, be expelled or killed, by anti-Semitic authorities. It is completely illegal to try to convert minors, however, and since it is a given that children spend a great deal of time in front of the television, they were naturally exposed to the Christian content of Shelanu TV.

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Controversy erupted immediately when the channel began running, with anti-missionary activists protesting that it was aimed at getting Jews to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, a principle which is a fundamental breach of Judaism. Their concerns were validated by the head of GOD-TV, Ward Simpson, who broadcast his joy at achieving the license on the evangelical website by saying, “GOD-TV has been given government permission to broadcast the gospel of Jesus Christ, Yeshua the messiah, in Israel.”

The opponents also pointed out that most Christians in Israel are Arabic speakers, yet the broadcasts were all in Hebrew. Then-communications minister David Amsalem (currently Minister for Cyber and National Digital Matters) vowed that he would “not allow any missionary channel to operate in Israel, at no time and under no circumstances,” and ordered an investigation.

Simpson told his viewers in May that GOD-TV lawyers had said the channel was following the rules of what was allowed to be broadcast, but the cable authority has now officially disagreed. Hot has seven days to pull the plug on the channel.