New York, December 1, 2011—All for Peace radio, once streamed to over 30,000 Israeli and Palestinian listeners eager for an alternative news source, had their license revoked by Israel in the latest wave of government checks on leftist organizations.
Until its closure on November 17, All for Peace radio operated as the only joint Israeli-Palestinian station in Israel. It was forced to shut down its Israeli frequency following an order from the Ministry of Communications amidst allegations of illegal licensing and incitement.
In response, Mossi Raz, the co-director of All for Peace, has asserted that the station broadcasts from Palestine where it is not bound by Israeli laws governing radio stations, and that they are considering their legal options to get the license back while they continue to broadcast online. The first step in their legal battle will come on December 4 when they are set to petition the Israeli Supreme Court.
Many in Israel see the move as part of a broader trend by the government to restrict left wing organizations and curb left wing voices.
"It's tragic," said Tal Harris, OneVoice Israel executive director and former host of a weekly program that brought regular Israelis and Palestinians, as well as politicians and activists, together to discuss the conflict. "Instead of civil society enabling the elected leadership to move forward [by] setting an example of dialogue and on air-negotiations when we host Palestinians, [we] are being stopped by the government."
Founded in 2004, All for Peace broadcasts in Hebrew, Arabic and English from East Jerusalem-Sheikh Jarra and has sought in all of its programs to expand people's understanding and end the occupation through promoting both Israeli and Palestinian narratives. This platform, though, resulted in accusations from government officials, including Likud member Danny Danon, that the station "incited" against Israel.
"It was a shock for us, we did not expect it," said Raz. "The Communications Ministry acted, and it is part of the attack on the democracy of Israel [along with] legislation limiting the sources of funds to peace organizations."
The closure of the All for Peace station comes as Netanyahu's Likud government is pursuing new legislation aimed at stifling political opposition. The legislative efforts include lowering the burden of proof in libel suits brought by politicians against the media, transferring Supreme Court selection from an independent panel to the Knesset and a draft bill intended to limit international funding for NGOs. The last effort, which if passed will impose a 45% tax on foreign funding for NGOs who do not receive government grants while allowing those who do unfettered access to foreign funds, has many activists worried that particularly vocal groups may be targeted.
These efforts, though, have not been without a backlash. While All for Peace continues to broadcast online, OneVoice Israel is leading the protest against the station's closure by hosting high profile speakers, such as members of Knesset, to draw attention to the government's plans and increase exposure for the Web site.
"We are trying to show that business is better than usual," said Harris. "We are trying to maintain good content and more people are now listening [on the Web site] than were listening on the radio station."
Although the station is struggling to stay afloat without financial endorsements from advertisers, Raz remains optimistic and encourages those opposed to All for Peace's message to tune in.
"Right now the media is telling [Israelis and Palestinians] exactly what they want to hear," said Raz. "The truth is that we are somewhere in the middle. We want Israelis to listen to the Palestinian message. And we want Palestinians to listen to the Israeli message. We want to serve the organizations that fight for peace, freedom and human rights."