Israeli Army Radio ban on protest song raises controversy

JERUSALEM — A leading Israeli radio station's decision to ban for broadcast a protest song is stirring controversy and underscoring the sensitive intersection of art, politics and freedom of speech in the country.

"A Matter of Habit," recently released by veteran Israeli musician Izhar Ashdot, describes the slippery slope Israeli soldiers go down, from fear and confusion to complacency, until "killing is a matter of habit."  The lyrics, written by Ashdot's life partner, novelist Alona Kimhi, reportedly were inspired by her tour with Breaking the Silence, an organization of former combat soldiers whose website says it is dedicated to exposing the "reality of everyday life in the occupied territories." 

The song was welcomed by liberals as a protest of Israel's actions in the West Bank but fiercely criticized by others, who defaced Ashdot's official Facebook page last month, with one angry reader referring to Ashdot as a "draft-dodging dog" — though he didn't evade mandatory service.

Army Radio stuck by an advance invitation that Ashdot perform in its studios but expressly vetoed the playing of this song. The station later issued a statement saying there was no room on the military station for a song that "denigrates and denounces those who have sacrificed their lives for the defense of the country."

"I am worried when songs are banned for broadcast in a democratic country," Ashdot told Israeli media, adding he was shocked by the "incitement" against him that the statement encouraged. The decision and statement were issued by Yaron Dekel, a veteran journalist appointed to be the station's military commander in February.

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South Korea puzzles over oddball success of 'Gangnam Style'


SEOUL -- When South Korea finally got its breakthrough, it wasn’t thanks to its usual polished pop exports, but a stocky jokester in a candy-colored suit, an oddball once known as “the Bizarre Singer.”

It was Park Jae-sang, now known worldwide as Psy, whose single hit the highest echelons of the Billboard charts. Who popped up on "Saturday Night Live" and the "Today Show." Who taught Britney Spears his addictively goofy “horsey dance” on "Ellen."

College marching bands took up his tune; American cheerleaders winningly galloped to the unexpected hit “Gangnam Style” as it climbed higher and higher in popularity.

All this for a star whose song had been waning on the Korean charts. Breaking into American pop made a comic rapper an unlikely hero for a country anxious about its place in the world. And its stunning, unpredicted success left a nation that has devoted millions to national branding again puzzling over what it takes to make it in America.

“Before Psy, the Korean singers who wanted to make it in the U.S. thought they had to do everything American style,” pop culture critic Ha Jae-keun said. “They spent substantial time in the U.S. They met up with all kinds of people. They hired U.S. personnel to produce their songs” -- and they sang in English.

“Koreans thought if someone made it in the U.S., it would be the pretty girls or boys,” the critic concluded. “Not a middle-aged man singing in Korean.”

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