Promoting Mideast Dialogue on the Airwaves
The new "Voice of Peace" is jointly run by Israelis and Palestinians and receives funding from the European Union, among other sources. The program is currently broadcasting 14 hours a day over the internet (www.allforpeace.org) and will soon be available on the airwaves.
The initiators of this revolutionary innovation in radio are Palestinian intellectuals and businesspeople from the Palestinian non-governmental organization "Biladi" and the Israeli-Arab research center Givat Chaviva, which is located north of Tel Aviv and which has been promoting Arab culture in Israel for several decades now.
The initiators want to reactivate the stalled dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians – which is no easy task in a climate of increasing alienation between the two groups in recent years. The willingness to listen to the other side has steady diminished, including in radio.
The voice of Palestinians is almost never heard in Israeli radio, and the same is true of Israeli voices on Palestinian airwaves.
Conveying background information
"Voice of Peace" intends to do something about it. The station broadcasts mostly in Hebrew and Arabic, with a weekly show in English to round out the program. Besides Israeli, Arabic and Western pop music, the emphasis is on conveying background information.
On weekday mornings Orly Noy, an Israeli woman, moderates the Hebrew program "Kav Hamashve," which means "the equator."
The Hebrew name comes from the word "equality," and it is thus also a description of the show's agenda: both Palestinians and Israelis have equal voice in the program. After a brief review of the Palestinian press, Orly Noy offers Palestinians a forum where they can be heard.
For example, the Arabic lawyer for Maruan Barghuti, the leader of the Palestinian military organization Tanzim who has been in an Israeli prison for years, has been given the chance to remind the audience that his client was in fact working for peace before he was taken prisoner by the Israeli army.
Palestinian politicians addressing an Israeli audience
And Palestinian politicians also have the opportunity to reach an Israeli audience in Hebrew during Orly Noy's show, where they can be heard taking up positions on current affairs – something that has no longer been possible in Israeli radio under the rightist government of Sharon.
Even leftist Israeli politicians hardly have a voice anymore under Sharon's government, and thus "Voice of Peace" is also an important forum for them.
Making important distinctions is the central focus. For example, a discussion led by Israeli Orientalists aimed at differentiating between the terror of Al Qaida and the terror attacks of Palestinian organizations. As a moderator, Noy particularly emphasizes culture in the format of her program.
Interviews with Israelis and Palestinians inform audiences about important events and conferences that are oriented toward dialogue between the two peoples.
The Hebrew program "Kav Hamashve" is followed by the Arab-language program "Muhawalat," which means "attempts." The Palestinian moderator Adele Zumot begins with a reciprocal summary of the Israeli press in Arabic.
The Israeli military – the "occupying power"
Current affairs are reported from the perspective of and with the corresponding vocabulary of the Palestinians. Thus the Israeli military is unsparingly called the "occupying power." This term is also heard in the Hebrew program during summaries of the Palestinian press.
The idea is to familiarize audiences with the political language of the other side. Like his colleague Orly Noy, Zumot conducts interviews with public figures from both Israel and the Palestinian territories. Because the pool of Jewish Israelis who speak Arabic is rather small, usually Israeli Orientalists or Israeli Arabs are interviewed.
The Arabic venue is to an even greater extent devoted to social issues than the Hebrew program, addressing for example the daily material exigencies of the Palestinian population.
The goal is to work toward building a Palestinian civil society. And the "Voice of Peace" has already become an important outlet for those who represent this civil society.
© Qantara.de 2004
Translation from German: Christina M. White