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Voice of Peace - History (10)

At about the same time the station started a new programme each day (except Friday and Saturday), called "What Would We Do?"  which Abie Nathan presented himself. It took the form of a phone-in discussion about problems between Jew and Arab. On Fridays at this time a chat show, in which well known people  such as pop stars, show business personalities and politicians took part, was broadcast live via a telephone link with the Peace ship. The same time slot on Saturday  was filled by a sports programme.

On 19th April 1988 the station broadcast 24 hours of classical music in memory of Israeli soldiers who had died in various wars. Also during that month the station took to relaying the soundtrack of programmes broadcast on Israel's state television network and the Educational Television Service. On 30th April 1988 the soundtrack of the Eurovision Song Contest was re-broadcast by the Voice of Peace, while on 11th May 1988 the European Soccer Cup Final was relayed by the station.

The MV Peace entered Haifa on 1st May 1988 for overhaul, repair and painting and consequently the station was off the air  for six days. During this period the new FM transmitter was also installed by engineers from the United States and late on 6th May 1988 the Voice of Peace returned on both medium wave and FM with test transmissions.

On 13th September 1988 Abie Nathan met PLO leader Yasser Arafat in Tunis  to talk about the possibility of arriving at a peace settlement. When he returned to Israel Nathan was arrested and interviewed by police about his visit. Later that day, after he had been released , he went on air on the Voice of Peace to tell listeners what had happened both at his meeting with Yasser Arafat and with the police following his arrest.

Meanwhile, by the beginning of December 1988 the Voice of Peace was down to just two DJs and Gil Katzir from the station's Tel Aviv office often went out to the ship to present programmes. Lack of advertising income was again causing financial problems and Abie Nathan claimed to be losing $50,000 a month  - most commercials which were broadcast at this time were contra-deals for suppliers. Once again the station's viability had become precarious - the Voice of Peace was only managing to survive as a result of the large profits made during the lucrative days of the Kol Israel strike the previous year.  

The programming situation was relieved somewhat at the turn of the year when an Israeli DJ and two new English and American presenters came on board the MV Peace, while two more Israeli DJs joined the station in early January 1989.


However, despite this influx of new DJs many did not stay long and the station continued to suffer from a shortage of staff and advertising revenue during much of 1989. A novel programming idea  to attract more advertisers to the station was tried in August 1989 when a number of "Anniversary Specials" were aired marking events such as the 12th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley on 16th August  and the 31st birthday of Michael Jackson on 29th August.

Abie Nathan, appeared in court on 27th September 1989 on charges arising from his meetings with the PLO Leader, Yasser Arafat -the two men had met on a number of occasions, most recently in Tunis earlier in September 1989. The prosecution was brought because Abie Nathan had contravened a 1986 law prohibiting Israeli citizens from having contact with organisations such as the PLO. Nathan admitted in Court that he had met Arafat and made plans for peace between Israel and the PLO, however, he refused to accept an offer from the Public Prosecutor to reduce the maximum penalty from three years imprisonment to six months of community service in return for a confession of guilt. Abie Nathan told the Court that he undertook community service all year round and "preferred to go to jail protesting against an illegal, barbarous, anti-democratic and imbecile law."

On 2nd October, following a five day Court hearing, Abie Nathan talked on the Voice of Peace about his meetings with Yasser Arafat. The next day he was found guilty of  "making forbidden relations with members of a terrorist organisation" and given a fine and a six months term of imprisonment. With some considerable publicity Abie Nathan reported to start his jail sentence on 10th October 1989 and throughout that day  the Voice of Peace played music of 'peace and understanding' .

In the absence of Abie Nathan's day-to-day involvement with the offshore station and his frequent appearances on-air to talk about peace, a new programme was launched on 23rd October 1989. "Ma La'asat - Shalom" ("What Shall We Do? - Peace") in which journalists in the Voice of Peace office took part in phone-in discussions with listeners. The programme was relayed from the makeshift landbased  studio in Tel Aviv via the mobile telephone link to the MV Peace  from where it was actually transmitted.

On 8th December 1989 Abie Nathan was visited in prison by a member of the Knesset, Jossi Sarid, offering him an amnesty from his sentence if he confessed that his talks with the PLO Leader were a 'mistake'. Abie Nathan refused, saying he had deliberately and consciously entered into discussions with Yasser Arafat to try and bring about a settlement  for peace in the Middle East and was prepared to stay in jail rather than rebut what he had done.


Abie Nathan was eventually freed from jail (due to good behaviour) on 9th February 1990, after serving four of his six months' sentence. He told journalists that he would continue working for peace and was  even prepared to  talk with the PLO leader again - something he did within three months of his release. As a consequence Abie Nathan was arrested again on 15th May 1990 and although he was bailed to appear in Court later in the year he said defiantly: "I will go on with the talks with Arafat until there is real peace in the Middle East."

Persistent technical problems aboard the MV Peace which had hindered the Voice of Peace's transmissions for some time were largely solved by a new engineer, Al Muick, during August/September 1990. The shortwave transmitter was also rebuilt and, with tentative plans to return it to the air in time for Christmas 1990, some test transmissions were reported to have taken place on 21st November 1990. Plans were also announced for the installation of a longwave transmitter on 171kHz (1754m) to enable the Voice of Peace's signal to reach further into the Middle East, but this development did not ultimately take place.

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