Middle East

All for Peace: A Palestinian-Israeli Radio Station

All for Peace radio station at work. Left to right: Orly Noy, Adel Zoemot, Yoav Lapid and Muhamad Aboe-Adwan. Photo courtesy of Nili Basan.

It started with music. In January 2004, a radio station based in East Jerusalem made its debut on the Internet [www.allforpeace.org], broadcasting a playlist of global tunes that featured Arab and Israeli melodies. By April, the station was hosting talking radio programs in the mornings — one hour in Hebrew and one hour in Arabic. “We deal with education, culture and sport, but politics is out,” explains Maisa Seniora, the station’s Palestinian co-director. “You are bound to hurt someone when you deal with politics.” The station offers a range of programs for adults as well as for young listeners.

“The equator” is a one-hour talk show broadcast in Hebrew that examines the different social and cultural aspects of life in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The show lets Hebrew speaking listeners get to know Palestinian society. Its counterpart is “Muhawalat,” another daily program. Broadcast in Arabic, it deals with different aspects of Israeli society and gives Palestinian listeners a perspective on Israeli life.

“Crossing Borders” is a youth program hosted by two young girls, Neta Muray and Shireen Yassin. The show deals with the fears, dreams and hopes of both Israeli and Palestinian youth covering issues that affect their lives such as education, music, violence, drugs and more.

The station broadcasts 24 hours a day and as of May 2005, they finally have their own channel — 107.2 FM. Though the original transmitter is still somewhere in Israeli customs, the station purchased a smaller one that made it possible for them to go on air. Their frequency covers most of Israel — Jerusalem and central Israel, as well as the Palestinian Authority — Ramallah, Nablus and Bethlehem. Since going on air, the station’s popularity has increased tremendously. “We receive hundreds of e-mails from people who wish to support us,” says Shimon Malka, the station’s Israeli co-director.

The station’s yearly budget stands at $350,000. The Japanese embassy in Tel-Aviv and several private organizations also support the station.

In a relatively short time, this small radio station has built a reputation as a credible source of information. “While covering recent elections in the Palestinian Authority, we interviewed both Abu Mazen and his political rival Dr. Mustafa Barghouti,” Malka says with pride. “We were also approached by Israeli media for updates through our sources.”

One of the most fascinating stories covered by the station concerns a Palestinian terrorist who was on his way to launch an attack on Israeli civilians. A sudden moment of reflection led him to the conclusion that nothing useful would come from killing more people. He turned back to his village and eventually started a children’s theater group. All For Peace broadcast this story around the world, inviting the ex-terrorist in for an interview.

“We get about 10,000 daily visitors to the [Web] site,” says Malka. “I hope the numbers will keep on growing as more and more people hear about us.”

The station’s optimistic vision is all the more impressive considering the hurdles it has faced from Israeli and Palestinian officials. The station originally intended to broadcast via traditional radio waves, but the transmitter it ordered from Italy has been stuck in Israeli customs since November 2003. What seems to be a technical problem is actually a political one — the Palestinian Communication Office and its Israeli counterpart refuse to communicate since, officially, there is no dialogue between political leaders on both sides.

“This is a very frustrating situation,” says Seniora. “Since these people are incapable of speaking to one another, the station is stuck as well.”

The Israeli Ministry of Communication responded to questions about the station with a calendar of committee meetings and a saga of missing permits. An ultimatum given by the station’s management to Israeli officials has been ignored. Malka says that at present the station is engaged in trying to purchase an alternative transmitter, a smaller one, but one that will at least allow them to finally go on air. European Union officials have also begun exerting their influence to pressure Israel to allow the station to start broadcasting.

Even though these are not the best of times, Seniora and her colleagues remain determined. “If there was peace, we would have no work to do. I want to reach the people on the street who are tired of this war. The bottom line is that we are all people who want to live and work and raise our children in peace.”

Sima Borkovski is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. Her articles have been published by various Jewish publications in Europe and the United States. She also writes for NANA [www.nana.co.il], a news Web site in Israel.

View the Worldpress Desk’s profile for Sima Borkovski.