Israel's 'Voice of Peace' soldiers on

CAIRO - Among the journalists sprawling on the grass yesterday outside al-Quba presidential palace, one elderly figure lay apart. Abie Nathan was preparing a few words of thanks for President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt who was about to emerge with Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister, to make a statement on their summit, writes Sarah Helm.

Mr Nathan, director of Israel's Voice of Peace pirate radio station, former RAF pilot, restaurateur and free-speech campaigner, wanted to thank Mr Mubarak for a telegram he had sent a few weeks earlier. 'He cabled me to stop my fast in protest at the Israeli ban on PLO contacts,' said Mr Nathan. He has been jailed three times by Israel for travelling to the Palestine Liberation Organisation's headquarters in Tunis. He was released from a six- month sentence two months ago.

The indefatigable Mr Nathan, an Iraqi-born Jew, is planning to travel to Tunis again. But this time he hopes his trip will be in celebration of the lifting of the ban, which Mr Rabin has hinted may be ended to help the peace talks. 'When they lift the law I will be straight on the plane to Tunis. I will make a legal broadcast about it,' he said cheerfully.

Mr Nathan will be able to claim some credit if Israel decides to talk to the PLO and relax censorship laws. 'I think my radio station has done more than anything else to bring about a change in attitude,' he said. 'We must understand that we should talk to the enemy as well as to our own friends. Communication is the most important thing in achieving understanding and peace . . . the media have it in their hands to change the climate.'

After the Six-Day War in 1967, Mr Nathan sold his restaurant ('I was the first person to introduce California hamburgers to Israel') and bought a ship to start Israel's first pirate radio station, which now broadcasts 24 hours a day. 'It is somewhere in the Mediterranean international waters. Every politician in Israel wants to be heard on it nowadays.'

He believed the war could have been averted if communication between the enemies had allowed better understanding. 'I wanted to tell the Jews what the Arabs were really saying and vice versa. I thought it would pacify people.

'Every government wants to control the media. In Israel there is censorship of the press . . . I have been to prison so many times for breaking the law. The last time it nearly broke me. I was six months in a cell of 20 square metres with six other people. But I am still here,' he said.

Mr Nathan's vote of thanks was drowned out by the media. But his optimism was not dampened. He was looking forward to interviewing Yasser Arafat. 'I might speak to him live on Voice of Peace.'

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there