AS IS THE CASE AT MOST FALAFEL stands across the country, the radio station of choice at my neighbourhood falafel stand is the Israeli Defense Forces’ Galgalatz. The station, I thought yesterday afternoon as I waited for lunch, is inescapable. It blasts from my neighbours’ stereo on Friday mornings; it drifts from the windows of passing cars. From clothing stores to coffee houses, it’s “Gal-Gal-Gal-Galgalatz”, as the jingle goes, “because of the music”.
The station plays a mix of Israeli and international pop (excluding that from the Arab world, of course). But the feeling of normality is broken by the top-of-the-hour-every-hour news bulletins that follow an alarming series of beeps, reminiscent of those that signal an emergency broadcast, lest listeners forget we are surrounded by “enemies” and that we are in a state of war. This radio station is run by the IDF, after all.
In recent days, there has been another reminder that Galgalatz is government-owned and soldier-manned—the station has refused to play a new song by famed Israeli musician Yizhar Ashdot. Titled ‘Inian Shel Hergel (A Matter of Habit)’, the song is highly critical of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and describes, in explicit detail, soldiers’ abuse of Palestinians. As military service is mandatory and nearly every Israeli has a relative, friend, neighbour or acquaintance in uniform, the army is something of a holy cow. No matter what one thinks or feels about the occupation, you don’t criticise ‘our’ soldiers.