The University of Michigan's public radio group – Michigan Radio – denied one of its donors the ability to wish Israel a "Happy 68th Birthday" to mark the country's independence on air, reports Deadline Detroit.
Lisa Lis and her husband, Hannan Lis, donate $40 per month to the radio station, allowing the couple to sponsor a day's broadcast to have a message read on air six times.
Michigan Radio claims that it is "the state's most listened-to public radio services... with a broadcast signal that reaches 80% of Michigan's population."
Initially, the radio station claimed it could not air the Israel birthday wish because it required notice two months in advances. Then the station admitted to rejecting the message because it "could imply advocacy."
"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," wrote Alison Warren, associate director of development, in an April 26 email.
Lisa Lis was baffled such a simple message was seen as too political.
"It's sad. There's plenty anti- Israel messages out there, and they won't allow something for Israel," she said.
The couple argued their point in several emails, forcing the station to revise its policy on such issues to "make it clearer for individuals."
When pressed, the station said it would not allow birthday wishes to other countries.
"The answer to your question about whether or not we would allow a 'Happy Birthday Norway' is no. . . We would not air such a message. Harmless as it may seem, it forces us to make the choice between which countries or political bodies are worthy of on-air recognition and which are not," wrote Michigan Radio development director Larry Jonas.
The station's earlier response argued that offering well wishes to Israel "would compromise the station's commitment to impartiality and that it crosses over into advocacy, or could imply advocacy." It is difficult to fathom a similar situation unfolding, however, if Norway was replaced with Israel in this context.
While dozens of countries remain embroiled in political conflicts, the level of scrutiny surrounding anything Israel related, even a basic "Happy Birthday," is unparalleled.