Police shut down Jewish-Palestinian radio station

Kol Hashalom, which operates from Ramallah, was suddenly shut down on Thursday, based on what appears to be flimsy evidence

A small radio station, “Kol Hashalom,” unique in that it was directed jointly by a Palestinian and a Jew, was abruptly shut down by the Israeli police on Thursday.

Kol Hashalom, which roughly means “All for Peace,” had been active for the last seven years. It was a joint venture of the Palestinian NGO Biladi and the Israeli NGO Jewish-Arab Center for Peace, and was directed by former Meretz MK Mossi Raz and Meissa Bransie-Senyura. The station broadcast from Ramallah, under a license granted by the Palestinian Authority to the Biladi company. (Full disclosure: I participated as a co-host in a Kol Hashalom broadcasts about a year ago).

Naturally, the very idea of a Jewish-Palestinian radio was anathema to the Jewish right (can you seriously call it “Israeli” anymore, when its essence is the eradication of Israeli identity?).  So, in September, one of the leaders of the campaign for the destruction of Israeli democracy, Likud MK and Sarah Palin fan Danny Danon, demanded (Hebrew) that the station be shut down. Danon claimed the station was “inciting against Israel,” specifically that it was calling upon people “to reject political decisions arrived at democratically.” To wit, to support Palestinian statehood.

On November 4th, the Ministry of Communication sent a letter to Kol Hashalom, saying it is acting illegally and must close down immediately. The managers, having consulted their legal counsel, sent a letter last week denying all those claims. On Thursday, a day later – unheard-of speed for the Israeli police – Raz was summoned for a police interrogation, where he was informed that he was suspected of managing an illegal radio station, and that if he does not order it to shut down immediately, he would be arrested and the police would raid the station’s Jerusalem offices.

In a phone conversation with Raz today, he noted that a threat of detainment over the claim of running an illegal radio station is unprecedented. As far as I recall, in all of the years of the saga surrounding settler radio Channel 7, never were any of its managers arrested – even though its broadcasting interfered with the radio frequencies of the Ben Gurion Airport, and even though it never even claimed to be legal or  licensed.

Kol Hashalom, again, is based in Ramallah (the Jerusalem offices serve for its internet broadcast) and has a Palestinian license. Raz says the interrogators presented him with two arguments. One, that the station broadcasts in Hebrew, for a Hebrew-speaking public, which means it is an Israeli station which bypasses the law. Really? I guess the police don’t know that bypassing the law is, by definition, not breaking it. Raz, sarcastically, suggests the police should immediately arrest the anchors of the Persian Voice of Israel: According to the logic of the police, it is an Iranian radio station and the anchors are obviously Iranian spies.

Mossi Raz, who is sure that the closing of the station is part of an assault on the media. (Photo: Yossi Gurvitz)
Mossi Raz, who is sure that the closing of the station is part of an assault on the media. (Photo: Yossi Gurvitz)

The second argument of the police was dubbed by Raz as the “I’ve murdered my parents, have pity on an orphan” argument: They said that Israel has never granted the Palestinian Authority any frequencies, even though it was obligated to do so in the Oslo Accords. This argument suffers from two problems: Raz noted that the Accords grant the PA the right to grab their own frequencies if Israel doesn’t allocate them within a certain time frame. Secondly, and more importantly, this argument basically says that ALL Palestinians radio stations are, without exception, illegal – yet strangely enough the Israeli police only bother itself with the Jewish-Palestinian one. This can be seen as even more proof of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank: Israel claims the right to shut down a radio station licensed by the so-called autonomous PA.

This stinks to high heaven, and looks suspiciously like – as Raz says openly – a part of the continuing effort of Netanyahu and his right-wing allies to overtake the media and silence their political rivals. Raz, fearing a raid on the Jerusalem offices, ordered the broadcasts to be shut down on Thursday, and now Kol Hashalom is preparing an appeal to the High Court of Justice. Developing.