State approves W. Bank radio station

Peace groups petition High Court against establishment of "inherently political" radio.

radio 88 (photo credit:)
radio 88
(photo credit: )
A new, state-authorized radio station catering to West Bank settlers could be established somewhere in Judea or Samaria as early as April unless a pending High Court petition torpedoes the move. The announcement comes as the government has launched US-backed peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority that could lead to territorial compromises in the West Bank. Gush Shalom, an activist group opposed to settlement activity, has petitioned the High Court of Justice against authorizing the station. The Second Authority for Television and Radio announced Sunday night that "Radiosh" (the word combines "radio" with the Hebrew abbreviation for Judea and Samaria) had won a state tender for a license to operate a commercial radio station geared to serve West Bank settlements. "Radiosh serves residents of Judea and Samaria, so it has to be situated there," Second Authority spokeswoman Alona Arieli-Lahav said. Gush Shalom spokesman Adam Keller said that Radiosh violated the specifically non-political character of state-licensed commercial radio. "This station will broadcast messages in favor of settlement, and that's a radical departure from the state policy for regional radio stations. If licenses are being given by the state to the extreme Right for the creation of political radio stations, then the Left should get a license, too." Peace Now spokesman Yariv Oppenheimer agreed with Gush Shalom's position that the creation of Radiosh was illegal, because the station would advance an inherently political agenda and added that Peace Now backed the petition. "Unlike other radio stations that serve a particular geographic area or a particular segment of Israeli society, this station will have a definite political agenda. The common denominator uniting people in Judea and Samaria is principally political, not cultural, religious or social," Oppenheimer said. The radio station's establishment is contingent upon the court decision and the approval of the IDF commander in charge of Judea and Samaria. West Bank settlers, who number approximately 280,000, have not had their own radio station since the pirate station Arutz 7 was taken off the air in October 2003, thus ending 15 years of broadcasting. After a five-year court case, the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court convicted 10 of the station's managers for broadcasting illegally. Since being shut down, Arutz 7 has been broadcasting via the Internet. Yehoshua Mor-Yosef, former spokesman for Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza (Yesha), who is expected to serve as the new station's director, said that Radiosh would be nationalist, patriotic and pro-Zionist, but it would also be open-minded and pluralistic. "We will be a loyal platform for the vast majority of Israelis, who are opposed to returning to the pre-1967 borders," said Mor-Yosef. "But at the same [time], we will be self-critical, ask tough questions and be evenhanded." Mor-Yosef gave examples of reporting that he felt were unpatriotic. "For instance, in mainstream radio, Hamas terrorists are called 'activists' and when the IDF spokesman makes an announcement it is presented as a 'claim,' implying that the Palestinian version of what happened is just as legitimate as our army's version. That's wrong." Mor-Yosef said that foreign language music would "most probably" not be played by Radiosh. "Settlers do not listen to that music," he said. Second Authority chair Dorit Dabush said the move would "provide a real answer to the needs of an important segment of Israel's population that lives in a special area." "I have no doubt that the fact that the winning group is experienced, professional and pluralistic will make it possible for the station to succeed, she added." If the High Court case is resolved quickly, Radiosh could begin broadcasting as early as April.