Israeli Police Silence Peace Radio Station

All for Peace Radio's comment on its silencing by the Israeli police

Israeli police have just succeeding in murdering peace (Hebrew)–or at least the voice of peace that Israelis and Palestinians can hear on the radio.   Police summoned the Radio Kol HaShalom (“All for Peace” Radio, which is a play on Kol HaShalom, Abie Natan’s radio station which was called “Voice of Peace”) station director to a three-hour interrogation under warning (anything he said could be used to build a criminal case against him), during which they demanded that he sign a statement agreeing to cease broadcasts to Israel (not I presume to Palestinians, though it would be hard to beam a signal that reached one but not the other).  They also demanded that he call the station and direct the radio engineer to take the station off the air.  If he refused, he was told that police would raid the station and do it themselves.  Presumably, they’d confiscate the radio equipment which had taken months and months to arrive from abroad due to delays imposed by, you guessed it, the Israeli police, who didn’t want the station to go on air to begin with.

The blog post I linked to notes that staff of the station met a number of times during the seven years it was on air with officials of the ministry of communication, including the minister Eli Attias.  Not once did any civilian official complain about the station or threaten to take it off the air.  Now, all of a sudden, the ministry has decided that the “law” must be upheld.  It should be noted that the station has sought a license from Israel for years to broadcast and the government has never approved one.  This conveniently has allowed the authorities to do precisely what they did.  This is freedom of expression and a free press, Israel-style.

The station has been off-air since November 17th.  It had broadcast a mix of talk shows, interviews, and pop music.  I’ve listened to and been interviewed by the station and it wasn’t incendiary or politically radical at all.   It had a feel-good self-help orientation and attempted to promote fairly innocuous values of brotherhood and tolerance without engaging in political advocacy.  It did, however, explicitly endorse a two-state solution.  Apparently, that isn’t a political program endorsed by the Israeli police.

The station also endorsed freedom of speech and democratic values for both societies.  Apparently free speech and democracy are also threatening to the government censors otherwise known as the police.

Among the issues the station addressed was women’s rights and sexual violence, a criticism the pro-Israel crowd loves to point up as a “deficiency” of “Arab culture.”  The police never stopped to think that All for Peace might actually encourage Palestinians to believe that Israelis want peace.  Or perhaps that’s what threatened them because the police don’t believe in peace, but rather prefer constant tension and conflict.  After all, this would mean a career of full employment and high budgets for them.

In Palestine, All for Peace broadcasts legally and the PA has never had a problem with its programming.  One can presume though that if an East Jerusalem kindergarten can be shuttered by the police because its founders are alleged terrorists, that pop music that could be heard by both Israelis and Palestinians would be considered equally subversive.

The Israeli blog reporting this story closed with this passage:

It seems that during these days in which the Israeli Knesset is beset by a wave of anti-democratic legislation, the authorities saw fit to stop the broadcast of the sole station which enabled, in an open studio, deliberations on behalf of democracy.

All for Peace Radio was a small media fry in the Israeli pond.  It was no Channel 10 or Haaretz.  But it was the canary in the coal mine.  As went All for Peace so will go Channel 10.  Bibi Netanyahu prefers to control the media to the extent he can.  That is why all he may need to do is silence these media outlets for the others to get the message if they cross they line they’ll be punished as well.

The station will continue to fight for its right to broadcast and appeal the decision.  The next time you hear Abe Foxman and Alan Dershowitz crowing about Israeli democracy, remember posts like this.  On a related matter, I’m also tickled by Gershon Gorenberg’s new book which also touts Israeli democracy, according to this Amazon blurb:

Refuting…strident attacks [against Israel], Gorenberg shows that the Jewish state is, in fact, unique among countries born in the postcolonial era: It began as a parliamentary democracy and has remained one. An activist judiciary has established civil rights. Despite discrimination against its Arab minority, Israel has given a political voice to everyone within its borders.

To be fair, something Gorenberg wasn’t to me when he lied in calling me an anti-Zionist, Gorenberg does criticize Israel and its democracy.  But clearly he’s a liberal throwing a sop to all those classical Zionists who can’t bear the thought that they’ve lost the cherished Zionist dream of an exclusivist Jewish state.  He allows liberal Zionists to clear their conscience by conceding there are things wrong with Israel, while desperately clinging to the concept that Israel, as expressed in contemporary terms, remains fundamentally sound.

For those in the hasbara crowd who go through this blog with a fine tooth, these comments are not meant to be construed as a denunciation of Israel as a nation, but rather a criticism of the current undemocratic ways in which it is governed.  Contrary to Gorenberg (at least as represented in this blurb), Israel does not give a political voice to “everyone” within its borders.  It gives full voice to Jewish citizens and a muffled voice at best to Palestinian citizens.  That is why Gorenberg, Ethan Bronner, and the liberal Zionists do such a disservice to Israeli political reality and their readers beyond its borders.