Peace Via the Airwaves: Two Initiatives Have Emerged in Recent Months to Promote the Arab-Israeli Peace Process on Air. an Old Pirate Radio Station Transmitted from the Mediterranean Has Been Revived on Land and Will Broadcast for the First Time in Arabic and Hebrew, While an Arab Satellite TV Network Has Agreed to Take Part in a Project with an Israeli TV Network
FOR 20 YEARS, INTREPID ISRAELI peace campaigner Able Nathan broadcast his message of coexistence to Jewish and Arab listeners from his boat in the Mediterranean Sea, which housed his pirate Voice of Peace radio station. Broadcasts began in 1973 and ceased in 1994 when Nathan abandoned ship somewhere in the Mediterranean because of spiralling debts.
Some peace activists believe that The Peace Ship, as it was named, had achieved its aim: it ceased broadcasting in the very year that the Israelis and Palestinians signed the Oslo peace accords. But then the peace process got bogged down, derailed, and finally collapsed as Israelis and Palestinians went back to war.
Some activists began thinking that an unequivocal message of peace needed to be heard again on the airwaves. Now, 10 years after the Voice of Peace went silent, it is being reincarnated. This time round, it will be a joint Israeli-Palestinian station, broadcasting in Hebrew and Arabic and will be land-based, transmitting from the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Although the new Voice of Peace will be beaming the same message, it will be operated by both Israelis and Palestinians. The main station will be physically situated in Ramallah, with relay stations in Israel, West Bank and Gaza, which will carry the signal to a wide and diverse audience. Unlike The Peace Ship's English-only broadcasts, the new Voice of Peace broadcasts in Hebrew, Arabic and English. It began broadcasts last October.
The Palestinian director of the Voice of Peace, Mayssa Siniora, said the broadcasts will focus on issues of coexistence between the Palestinians and Israelis and promote peace. The radio station received the musical library and the jingles of peace activist Abie Nathan's channel.
The new station's birth is due to a 600,000 euro ($715,000) contribution by the European Union. There are also promises of further assistance from the Japanese government, and the Italian government has been approached.
"We want the silent majority on both sides that supports peace, that believes peace is not dead, to have a voice," said Siniora. "We believe civil society can exercise pressure on leaders to move forward."
The new Voice of Peace will broadcast 21 hours of music a day and three hours of programmes dealing with coexistence and the promotion of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.
"We want to enhance people-to-people type activities between the two sides and give a voice to peace groups," said Mussi Raz, deputy director-general of the Jewish-Arab Centre for Peace in Givat Haviva in northern Israel, and Siniora's Israeli partner. "We want to make sure that moderate politicians on both sides get heard. In the future we hope to reach Arab countries like Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon as well."
Besides the inspiration provided by Abie Nathan's peace ship, the idea to resuscitate a peace radio station also grew out era joint project run by Raz's organisation which has seen Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian youth putting out a joint magazine that focuses on peace building. Unlike many other Israeli-Arab grassroots initiatives, the project survived the Intifada.
The partners brush aside worries that if the Road Map peace plan fails and the two sides again begin talking out of the barrel of a gun, their broadcasts will be one of the first casualties. Siniora said: "With our new station we will try to keep the hope alive that reconciliation is possible and that the two peoples have to learn to live together. …