“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.” – Genesis 50:20
HOT cable company chose not to reapply for a license on Shelanu TV’s behalf, effectively ending its time on Israeli cable TV.
This doesn’t, however, prevent the channel from airing content on the internet, creating a “Streisand effect,” helping the channel more than harming it by drawing attention to the case.
The Streisand effect is a social phenomenon that occurs when an attempt to hide, remove, or censor information has the unintended consequence of further publicizing that information, often via the Internet. It is named after American entertainer Barbra Streisand, whose attempt to suppress photographs of her residence in Malibu, California, inadvertently drew further attention to it in 2003. (Wikipedia).
God TV’s spokesman in Israel, Ron Cantor, said the show will go on, albeit in a different format.
“HOT will return all the money that we paid them, and we will use those funds to market our internet site, shelanu.tv and to create more content in Hebrew,” he told KNI. “So now we have more money than we had expected, and free publicity. We will reach a lot more people on the internet than we ever would have reached with a cable channel. Also, on the internet we don’t need to worry about a regulatory commission. God used this to get people’s attention to the channel. We hope to go live on internet this Thursday.”
Shelanu TV is going to merge with yeshuachai.tv, who has been airing a Messianic channel on the internet for several years already.
“We, HOT and Shelanu, both knew that in a free and democratic society, we would have received approval for our new license,” Cantor said in a press release. “And if not, we would have won in court. The only thing that could have stopped our channel from being aired was if HOT broke our relationship.”
A few months ago, Messianic lawyer Michael Decker explained to KNI the possible outcomes of Shelanu’s appeal.
“They might close it temporarily because of religious pressure, but then the courts will force them to reopen it. They have no case. HOT already airs several religious TV channels, including Christian ones. Channels like Daystar and METV have all aired on Israeli TV for many years,” Decker said. “The only difference is that Shelanu is the first Messianic channel in Hebrew, managed by local believers. It annoys them, but it’s not a legal case against it.”
As a commercial entity, HOT had nothing to gain by letting Shelanu continue to use their platform after the controversy ensued. Cantor expressed his appreciation to them in the press release.
“We want to say thank you to HOT for sticking with us as long as they did. Quite honestly, we expected them to drop us two months ago, when the controversy began. We hold no ill will against them. They were in a no-win situation and we are a small client.”
A board member of Shelanu who preferred not to be named told KNI that she worries how international media will report the issue.
“They might stir up anger against Israel with headlines like ‘Israel closes down Christian channel’ which is not true. Israel didn’t close it, and it wasn’t a Christian channel. There are Christian channels airing on HOT. That wasn’t the issue. They closed it because it was not a Christian channel – but an Israeli Messianic one.”
“I think the government made a tremendous mistake here. If they had just left us alone, we would have been this lonely little channel on 182 that few people would have watched. By resisting it, they made it appear like they are undemocratic. It’s not good for Israel’s image. I am happy that it was HOT who dropped us, and not the government, so they can’t be accused of denying anyone’s freedoms.”
When the license was suspended a few days ago, many Orthodox news outlets immediately published articles claiming victory, that they shut down the channel. KNI published an article noted that this was “fake news” since the channel was only asked to resubmit their license request. Just a day later, however, the fake new came true leading to speculation that the Orthodox and Yad l’Achim pressured HOT to drop the channel.
Nevertheless, Cantor noted that Shelanu is not closing down as it will continue to air on the internet and that Israel did not shut it down, it was the cable company who dropped them.
The question remains whether this incident will harm Israel’s standing among evangelical believers. When Fox News reported the misleading headline that “Israel shuts down Christian TV channel,” the talkback section was filled with hateful anti-Semitism from Christians, sometimes just as bad as the Jewish anti-Christian talkbacks in the Orthodox articles.
However, there were a few rays of light among the comments. In response to an angry commentator: “When Israel turns its back to Christians it is time for Christians to turn their back to Israel!” someone else replied, “Why? God never did,” which is biblically correct.
Cantor also took this approach in his press release.
“As Israelis who love our country and know the laws, we will not be silenced. We will continue, in a spirit of love, despite being persecuted by our own government, to be a voice against BDS and seek support from evangelicals all over the world for Israel. We will stand with Israel, even if our government does not stand with us.”
“For God’s gifts and his calls are irrevocable.”