The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel has demanded that the High Court prevent the station from forcing soldiers in obligatory army service, career service or reservists from working on Shabbat and on Israel’s
holidays, claiming that they are not broadcasting for security reasons and are negating General Staff orders.
The petitioners recommended that the Army Radio commander choose between employing civilian IDF workers or shutting the station down.
Attorney Itzhak Bam, representing the legal forum, prepared the petition which was submitted to the High Court on Wednesday afternoon against Defense Minister Ehud Barak, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and the station's commander, after the direct discussions between the sides yielded no agreement.
The petitioners also asked the court to issue a foreclosure against further broadcasting.
“It is unclear how the broadcasts of a radio station, whose majority of listeners are civilians and majority of broadcasts are not purely military-related, are essential to martial efforts,” the plea stated.
“Broadcasting current events, cultural and entertainment programs and interviews with officers does not contribute at all to Israel’s security, and conducting them on Shabbat is not necessary in order to defend the country and maintain its army.”
The legal forum said that in May 2007 it turned to Army Radio with the issue and that the station responded by saying, “Galatz’s non-military programming is not subject to General Staff orders.”
Later, the two sides spoke in order to try and reach an agreement that would allow for the continued broadcasting on Shabbat. Amongst the radio station's claims were considerations based on ratings, competition and status quo.
‘Station cannot enjoy both worlds’
The petitioners responded by saying that the station wants to be a competitive media channel but does not want to be subordinate to General Staff orders, and simultaneously wants to function as a military unit which enjoys the advantages of enlisting manpower and is exempt from laws concerning work and rest hours.
The petition went on to say that “Galatz cannot enjoy both worlds. If it is a military unit, the people serving in it must comply with General Staff orders which are part and parcel of military law.
"If it is a form of media there is no reason why young and talented people will enlist in it and contribute to the country’s security by reporting from the field (for instance, the Knesset) instead of doing their service in areas resembling tasks connected to Israel’s security.”
The legal forum also emphasized that “the petitioners are not interested in silencing the station on Shabbat or holidays. These broadcasts can occur either by technical means allowing for automatic broadcasting without the use of soldiers or by means of people who are not soldiers.”
Nachi Eyal, the forum's director-general, told Ynet that “the fact that Galatz operates on Shabbat and that Israeli soldiers are forced to desecrate Shabbat against their will for non-operational reasons is a disgrace being waved before us all.
“The amazing thing is that soldiers are commanded to desecrate Shabbat on a weekly basis, for non-operational reasons and completely against General Staff orders and against the law, and for years no one has done anything about it. We are trying to remove this disgrace,” said Eyal.