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Arutz Sheva - History (5)

Deputy President of the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, Judge Yoram Noam said in his judgement: "The actions of the defendants are serious first and foremost in light of the essence of the offences and the extent of the broadcasts. We are not dealing here with a lone transmission or a local station. Another serious aspect was the attempt to conceal the site of the broadcasts and to obstruct the investigation."

Yaakov Katz, one of the station's top managers, was also convicted of perjury after being found guilty of submitting two false affidavits to the High Court of Justice, in which he said the station broadcast from a ship outside Israel's territorial waters and that the station was not broadcasting from a land-based studio, even though some of the station's broadcasts in fact came from the West Bank settlement of Beit El.  

Other defendants received suspended jail sentences and/or fines for their involvement in the station’s broadcasts.

During the trial the Arutz Sheva defence lawyer had asked the court to take into consideration what it termed "selective enforcement" against the station, claiming that the authorities only began to clamp down on pirate broadcasts after Abie Nathan's Voice of Peace radio station had stopped broadcasting in 1993.

After the sentences were announced Labour Member of the Knesset, Eitan Cabel, said he was pleased that the court had determined once and for all that Arutz Sheva was illegal, and that even settlers, with their strong lobby, are not above the law.

The sentencing came just one day after the government approved a Bill that could legalise the station in the future. The Bill stated that the government would establish three new radio stations to cater for specialised sectors of society and that one of the three stations would be given to the Israelis living in the West Bank and Gaza; Arutz Sheva would be allowed to participate in the tender process for such a station.


On 4th February 2004 the Bill, tabled by Minister of Communications Ehud Olmert, in coordination with the Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon passed its first reading in the Knesset.

The provisions of the Bill were to allow the Communications Ministry to award broadcast licences to radio stations which appealed primarily to specific sectors of society or those that have a unique characteristic, such as an alternative language or culture. It would also grant to the government powers to decide which stations are licensed, in accordance with demographic requirements.

On 10th February 2004 four Arutz Sheva directors and broadcasters filed an appeal against their convictions of operating an unlicensed radio station. The four maintained that their conviction was based on false and purposeful testimony by Communications Ministry personnel, and that they "did not violate any criminal law; they acted for a worthy goal, while preserving the law, on the one hand, and by insisting on their sacred right to freedom of expression, on the other."

Similarly, the companies that operated the ship from where the broadcasts emanated also appealed against the heavy fines levied upon them.

The appeal stated that the ship "sailed for many years on 'calm waters,' with Prime Ministers, government ministers and others visiting it and speaking on Arutz Sheva’s airwaves."

Almost simultaneously the State Prosecution appealed the "lenient" sentences handed down against the four main defendants and also asked for higher fines against the ship's operating companies.

The outcome of these appeals became known on 18th May 2004 after both the prosecution and the defendants withdrew their appeals. The Jerusalem District Court judges expressed strong criticism of the state and the prosecution in their handling of the case against Arutz Sheva:

"It is inconceivable that the state would take out its rage against the pirate radio stations by punishing the leaders of Arutz Sheva [which] operated throughout the years with the encouragement of the authorities; the Knesset even legislated a law to legalise it."

The judges began by recommending that both sides withdraw their appeals, and the defence team agreed. The prosecution then did the same - except for the fine levied against Yaakov (Ketzaleh) Katz, the station's executive-director, which it insisted be increased. The judges were not happy with this position, and hinted that if the prosecution did not withdraw its appeal totally, they would have much to say about the entire trial against Arutz Sheva. The prosecution team then consulted amongst themselves and agreed to drop their entire appeal.

The final sentences were reduced to 3-6 months of community service for the four main defendants, while each of the ten defendants were also required to pay fines. In addition the companies behind the operation of  Arutz Sheva were also given reduced fines.

Although that concluded the case against Arutz Sheva’s offshore operations the station still broadcasts today via the internet - http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Radio/Programs

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