GOD TV’s Christian channel Shelanu is no longer permitted to broadcast in Israel, apparently due to pressure from government officials and Jewish anti-missionary groups. On Sunday, regulators announced that the U.S.-based evangelical channel is being removed from the air and indicated its original application was misleading.
Israel’s Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council (CSBC) ruled that Shelanu “appeals to Jews with Christian content,” though it claimed on its application it would be “targeting the Christian population.” GOD TV should have been more upfront about its intended programming, says CSBC Chairman Asher Biton, adding that regardless of what occurred, “the channel should not be allowed to continue broadcasting based on the license it was given.” He admits that Christian programming for a Jewish audience is a “complicated and sensitive matter.”
Shelanu Reps Deny Any Duplicity
Ron Cantor, Shelanu’s Israeli spokesman, refutes claims that the application was deceptive. “Maybe there was some confusion,” he says, “but to say that we tricked [regulators] into broadcasting content that is not allowed under our license is simply not true.” Lying on an application “goes against everything we teach,” he adds.
The application, Cantor notes, was clear that Shelanu (which means “ours” in Hebrew) would broadcast in Hebrew, while most Christians in Israel speak Arabic. “Therefore,” he says, “it is not at all clear what was wrong beyond political considerations.” Seventy percent of the station’s content was produced by Israelis.
For regulators, a key factor may have been a video, later removed, in which GOD TV CEO Ward Simpson stated, “God has supernaturally opened the door for us to take the gospel of Jesus into the homes and lives and hearts of his Jewish people.” He later apologized for that statement and said Shelanu would comply with all broadcasting regulations.
“The last thing we want to do is cause division,” Simpson says. “We love Israel.” To Israelis, the CEO says, “GOD TV is your strong ally and your friend…[standing] with you as your voice, as your advocate, and as your watchman on your walls.”
The Channel Will Now Be Online Only
Jaime Cowen, former president of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, had called Shelanu “amazing free publicity” and “a huge open door—as long as the government doesn’t shut it down.” Cowen added, “The reality is that Jews believe all kinds of different things and are subject to all kinds of programming that pushes various views.”
Cantor, the Shelanu spokesman, says the CSBC faced “relentless pressure” from anti-missionary groups such as Yad L’Achim, which called the ruling against the network a “huge victory.”
American evangelical Christians tend to be strong supporters of Israel but often avoid trying to convert Jews. That’s considered offensive because of a history of persecution and anti-Semitism. Cantor insists, however, that Shelanu wasn’t “Western Christians seeking to force their religion on Jews.”
As for the unplugged channel, it now will be online only. “We will not be silenced,” Cantor says. “We will continue in a spirit of love, despite being persecuted by our own government.”