A broadcasting license issued to a Hebrew-language Christian TV channel has been revoked after it was accused of illegally seeking to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ in Israel. The God TV-owned "Shemanu TV" had been warned by Israel's Minister for Communications last month after it openly declared its mission "to take the gospel of Jesus into the homes and lives and hearts of the Jewish people". It is illegal to proselytize to minors in Israel without their parent's consent.
Shemanu TV had begun broadcasting in Israel on the Hot cable network at the end of April, following the issuing of their license by the Council for Cable and Satellite Broadcasting earlier this year. However, on Thursday, the Council's chairman Asher Biton wrote to the Hot company to inform them that the license had been revoked because Shelanu TV was specifically targeting Jews with its evangelical message rather than appealing to Christians in Israel as the channel had originally promised.
Biton said that in its initial license request, Shemanu had “written explicitly that the channel is intended for the Christian population", and noted that the channel would “integrate several programs with content designated for Israel" and that “the designated content will include programs for the Christian population in Israel".
The council said it was apparent that the channel "is not appealing to the Christian population in Israel but rather specifically to Jews”, and that therefore “the characterization of the channel that was submitted does not reflect its broadcasts".
Biton added that once the channel's license was approved, Sehmanu "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".
He continued: “A channel which seeks to address the Jewish people which dwell in Israel [and present it with] the gospels of Jesus will never be broadcast on Hot and this was known to the senior officials of the channel, as was stated in the hearing."
Hot has been given seven days to stop the Shemanu TV broadcasts, though it is entitled to appeal the decision.
Biton clarified that it is not expressly illegal to evangelise in Israel and noted that if Shemanu had applied to be licensed as a proselytizing channel, a further deliberation would have ensued in light of the laws against proselytizing to minors. However, given the wide-ranging access that children now have to television, it is unclear how such an application could have changed the outcome for Shemanu TV.
Biton insisted that religious channels of different faiths, which are solely aimed at their own religious communities, had been broadcasting in Israel for many years “in accordance with the religious policies of the Council".
In response, Shelanu TV said it was "saddened by the unprofessional decision of the chairman of the Council for Cable and Satellite Broadcasting" and noted that it would be submitting a new license request for broadcasting in Israel.
The channel added:
"The directors of the channel hope that the Council will approve the new request to broadcast the channel, and thereby avoid a severe diplomatic incident with hundreds of millions of Evangelical Christians who love and support Israel around the world."