When this year is over, it will be remembered as the Year of the Protest, a time when millions of people across the Middle East stood up for what they believed in: freedom, fairness, and a better future.
The power of the masses, from Tunis to Damascus, brought the world’s attention to the plight of the everyday citizen. There is one area, however, that remains a stoic island in a stormy sea of change: Israel and Palestine. Within the heart of the stoic island, a non-profit radio station in Jerusalem called All for Peace is joining with the international grassroots OneVoice Movement to keep the conversation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict going.
Founded in 2004, All for Peace broadcasts in Hebrew, Arabic, and English and is the only joint Israeli-Palestinian radio station of its kind in Israel. Run by a team of 60 volunteers and reaching 33,000 people, it seeks to bring to the forefront the concerns of Israelis and Palestinians of all demographics, touching on domestic and international issues, with the conflict as a main focus.
“In Israel, the concern is civil rights and freedom of speech,” said Tammi Molad-Hayo, program manager at All for Peace and a seasoned Israeli journalist. “For the Palestinians, the concern is about building democracy and their own state. We need to empower both and break the barrier of fear of the unknown.”
This is proving more difficult because of the stalled peace talks and the impending UN vote on Palestinian statehood slated for September 21. The recent quid pro quo rocket attacks against Israel and the retaliation that followed, coupled with strained Israeli-Egyptian relations, does not bode well for any impending deal.
All for Peace is not like the mainstream Israeli media, Molad-Hayo explained. The station does not report on sensationalized “man bites dog” stories, nor does it indulge talking heads shouting their opinions. It tries to promote a culture of listening, providing more than 20-second sound bites and trying to discover the reasons for discord, she said.
For these very reasons, All for Peace has teamed up with OneVoice Israel, a branch of the OneVoice Movement, a nonprofit that supports moderate Israelis and Palestinians seeking a two-state solution. Tal Harris, executive director of OneVoice Israel, has hosted a radio show on Mondays for several weeks, hosting volunteers from the movement – Israeli and Palestinian – Knesset members, and other organizations for conversation. Recently, he moderated a Peace Now/Judea-Samaria Council debate on settlements.
“All for Peace is a platform for getting answers directly from experts and members of the Knesset and to give publicity to their answers,” said Harris. “It’s also a great way to hear Palestinians on the radio without getting a permit for them to reach out to thousands of Israelis.”
Ahmad Omeir, senior OneVoice Palestine youth leader, was on the program and echoes Harris’ thoughts.
“What makes All for Peace unique is that it allows Israeli listeners to see that there are active Palestinian partners,” Omeir said. “We can reach out to the polarized populations and bring them to the moderate middle in an attempt to explain the needs [of all parties] so we can move forward.”
Social issues are a big topic, especially due to the recent Israeli protests on quality of life issues like housing and food prices. Harris said he sees a connection between what is going on in Israel and the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the upcoming UN vote.
“Until we solve the conflict, the national focus on security will always be a heavy lid on the cooking pot of social issues,” Harris said. “OneVoice’s mission is to rid the heavy lid from the social pressure boiling beneath while providing more buzz about September and social issue demonstrations, taking any Netanyahu speeches with a grain of salt.”
Molad-Hayo believes that it will take time for Israelis to get what they want domestically before they look to solving the conflict again.
“The public hasn’t said a word for decades, and suddenly people have found their voice through the pain of everyday life,” she said. “There is a connection between the ideology and the occupation and the socioeconomic life, but we are in just the beginning of our revolution.”
Photo Credit: OneVoice