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May 16, 2016 6:31 am

Michigan Public Radio Station Bars Donor’s Israel Birthday Message

avatar by Steven Emerson

Email a copy of "Michigan Public Radio Station Bars Donor’s Israel Birthday Message" to a friend
Israel's national Independence Day torch lighting ceremony in 2014. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Israel’s national Independence Day torch lighting ceremony in 2014. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The University of Michigan’s public radio group — Michigan Radio — denied one of its donors the opportunity to wish Israel a “Happy 68th Birthday” to mark the country’s independence, reports Deadline Detroit.

Lisa Lis and her husband, Hannan Lis, donate $40 per month to the radio station, which allows the couple the opportunity to sponsor a message read on air six times.

Michigan Radio claims that it is “the state’s most listened-to public radio services… with a broadcast signal that reaches 80% of Michigan’s population.”

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Initially, the radio station claimed it could not air the Israel birthday wish because it required notice two months in advance. Then the station admitted to rejecting the message because it “could imply advocacy.”

“We have determined that this message would compromise the station’s commitment to impartiality and that it crosses over into advocacy, or could imply advocacy,” wrote Alison Warren, associate director of development, in an April 26 email.

Lisa Lis was baffled that such a simple message was seen as too political.

“It’s sad. There’s plenty anti-Israel messages out there, and they won’t allow something for Israel,” she said.

The couple argued their point in several emails, forcing the station to revise its policy on such issues to “make it clearer for individuals.”

When pressed, the station said it would not allow birthday wishes to other countries.

“The answer to your question about whether or not we would allow a ‘Happy Birthday Norway’ is no. . . We would not air such a message. Harmless as it may seem, it forces us to make the choice between which countries or political bodies are worthy of on-air recognition and which are not,” wrote Michigan Radio development director Larry Jonas.

The station’s earlier response argued that offering well wishes to Israel “would compromise the station’s commitment to impartiality and that it crosses over into advocacy, or could imply advocacy.” It is difficult to fathom a similar situation unfolding, however, if Norway were replaced with Israel in this context.

While dozens of countries remain embroiled in political conflicts, the level of scrutiny surrounding anything Israel related, even a basic “Happy Birthday,” is unparalleled.

Steven Emerson is the Executive Director the Investigative Project on Terrorism (www.investigativeproject.org) where this article first appeared.

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  • Rita Crespi

    Wait til the donations and memberships dry up. They’ll come begging to put anything on.
    Shame on them for not allowing these people to wish Israel a Happy Birthday. Most of the electronics (phones, iPads, computer chips) are made in Israel. If they’re so against it and willing to abide with the BDS crap, they should give all these things up. Don’t forget to not accept the new cancer cure from Israel, and they’re at the edge of finding a cure for Diabetes.
    Wonder how the BDS will handle that.

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