US/World News

Michigan public radio refuses to air birthday greeting to Israel

(JTA) — A Jewish couple from Detroit is pressing a Michigan public radio station to broadcast a birthday greeting to Israel paid for by their sponsorship of the station. Hannan and Lisa Lis made a donation to Michigan Radio, a statewide public radio group operated by the University of Michigan, that entitled them to sponsor a day’s broadcast and have a message read on the air six times. The couple requested “Happy 68th Birthday Israel” to be broadcast on May 12, Israel Independence Day. Hannan Lis is an Israeli citizen, and one son is serving in the Israeli army. Lisa Lis is a daughter of Weight Watchers CEO Florine Marks. The station first said it needed two months notice to broadcast a message, but then rejected the message outright, saying in a letter to the couple: “We have determined that this message would compromise the station’s commitment to impartiality and that it crosses over into advocacy, or could imply advocacy.”

“There’s so much anti-Israel sentiments and rhetoric and lies out there, and I just wanted something positive about Israel to be announced on the radio,” Lisa Lis told AMI Newswire. “Many people just say ‘happy anniversary’ to their spouse. When they offered a day sponsorship to me, I genuinely and publicly wanted to wish Israel happy birthday from my husband and myself. We respect the university and the relationship and connections it has with Israel. The radio station, on the other hand, somehow feels wishing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Israel is adversarial to them. And I can’t for the life of me figure out why. Everybody we talk to is surprised and shocked. I don’t see how ‘Happy Birthday’ is political.”

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