Israeli cable television is planning to drop a major Christian TV network which runs missionary advertisements directed at Jews. The move has prompted threats of legal action by the station’s representatives.
The decision by the Hot Cable TV to halt the broadcasts of the Daystar TV network is pending the authorization of the Israeli Council for Cable TV and Satellite Broadcasting.
A spokeswoman for the HOT cable company said in a statement that the decision to stop broadcasting the station was made “out of editorial and content considerations,” and following complaints the company received for broadcasting the network.
A lawyer for the Christian station said that the decision to take the network off the air was a violation of freedom of expression.
“You cannot close down this station just because it is a Christian station,” said attorney Amir Witkon.
Witkon said that he would take legal action against HOT in an Israeli court if the decision is finalized.
The Israeli Council for Cable TV and Satellite Broadcasting, which can accept or reject the cable company’s request, will take up the issue at its next meeting, a spokeswoman said. The council is tentatively set to meet next month, officials said.
The station, which has been on the air in Israel since last year, is also broadcast on Israeli satellite TV, which has not asked to drop the station.
The Dallas-based Daystar TV network, which is part of the basic cable program on both HOT and YES, broadcasts a medley of Biblical teachings from the New Testament but also includes 15-minute infomercials from the “Jewish Voice Ministries International” that targets a Jewish audience with the message of Jesus.
The network, which is similar to many Christian religious stations in the US, is broadcast on channel 110 on YES, and is available, upon request, on channel 98 on HOT.
The Christian TV Network has 128 million viewers in the US, including 60 million viewers on cable and satellite homes, and is now available in more than 200 countries around the world.
The Phoenix-based Jewish Voice Ministries International, which puts out the controversial advertisements directed at Jews, calls itself “a worldwide outreach that is dedicated to bringing the Gospel of Jesus to the Jew first and also to the Gentile throughout the world,” according to its Web site.
The Chairman of the Council for Cable TV and Satellite Broadcasting Yoram Mokady has said that there were very clear regulations for religious programming, including misinformation, frightening programming and programs directed at minors but that there were no guidelines for missionary activity.
The broadcasts have been condemned by anti-missionary activists in Israel, who have long been wary of any connection with Christians, including Christian Zionists in Israel.
“The State of Israel must safeguard its Jewish existence which means preventing any non-Jewish authority that plans to wipe out the Jewish Nation spiritually from operating in the Jewish State,” said prominent anti-missionary activist and Jerusalem city councilwoman Mina Fenton.
The issue also underscored the delicate balancing act that Evangelical Christian supporters of Israel face when dealing with the Jewish State, which bans proselytizing, and their hardcore Bible-beliefs that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land is foretold in the Scriptures and heralds the return of the Messiah.