Reflections on life and work of Abie Nathan

Gideon Levy, famous for his “Twilight Zone” stories of the absurd and oppressive cruelty of life for Palestinians under occupation and of the bland Israeli bureaucratic justifications that try to gloss over it all, wrote today in Haaretz: “It was a Saturday afternoon in the late 1980s. We entered The Voice of Peace’s rickety Subaru truck and drove to Gaza to Mahmoud Zahar’s house. Afternoon coffee with the Hamas-nik, just imagine. Imagine that once it was possible to visit Zahar on a Saturday afternoon. Just think  there once was a man here who dreamed of peace … In the footnotes of history, Abie will be remembered as the man from California, the city’s first hamburger joint; as the man who took the peace flight to Cairo and was erroneously reported to have crashed. And of course, as the man from “Twilight Time,” the unforgettable program on the Voice of Peace, with its daily moment of silence – perhaps the last time we heard silence here, not just incessant intolerable noise … Above all, I’ll remember the other days, when you could drive to meet Zahar on a Saturday afternoon, bring him toys for Gaza’s children (in the trunk of the jalopy that kept pulling to the left), and dream of peace. None of this is possible anymore…” The full Gideon Levy reflection on Abie Nathan can be read in Haaretz here .

From the exact opposite end of the Israeli political spectrum, David Bedein [of his own
Israel Resource News Agency] wrote today (message received by email) that “While the Voice of Peace radio stationed gained popularity over the years, it also earned a certain amount of notoriety for a number of years. On Yom Kippur 5734 (1973), when I heard planes overhead and rumors of an impending war on two fronts, I came home from synagogue and listened to the only station that was broadcasting on Yom Kippur — Abie Natan’s ‘Voice of Peace.’ Natan’s message on that Yom Kippur day: ‘Soldiers must refuse [their commanders’] orders, and must not fight. Instead, they should extend a peaceful hand to the attacking Egyptian and Syrian armies.’ Throughout the day, Nathan played the song ALL WE ARE SAYING IS GIVE PEACE A CHANCE, and urged soldiers of the trauimatized nation of Israel not to fight back, and this was the only radio station that was operating. ‘Throw down your guns. Do not fight back. Hug the oncoming Egyptian and Syrian Troops’ was the theme that Nathan played all day , on that loing Yom KIppur, and in those difficult days that followed. The story receives confirmation from The Voice of Peace History, as found in Jim Parkes’ ‘History of Offshore Radio’ (http://www.geocities.com/Broadway/5383/vophisto.html), which writes: ‘During the October war the [Voice of Peace] ship moved to the Suez Canal. While the soldiers listened to the station, they only laughed at requests to lay down their arms’. A few days into the Yom Kippur War, Israeli intelligence closed down Nathan’s transmitter, which operated from the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv, owned and operated by Israel hotel magnate Yekutiel X. Federman. A Canadian journalist intern at the Beit Agron Press Center in 1989 who had previously interned with Abie Nathan provided some insight into Nathan’s operation, explaining that the vast majority of the ship’s programming was conducted out of the Dan Hotel. Since the radio station operated without a license, Nathan maintained the myth that THE VOICE OF PEACE was only ‘broadcasting from somehwhere in the Meditarranean’. Abie Nathan, whose voice was silenced by a stroke for the past ten years, will be remembered as the first Israeli to give legitimacy to justify those Israelis who simply did not want to defend the Jewish state in a time of war“.

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