Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Iranian-born Abie Nathan (pictured here earlier in his life) passed away in Tel Aviv after long illness. He served in Israel's first air force squadron, founded the 'Voice of Peace' radio station and fought relentlessly for peace - flying solo to Egypt.

Nathan broke the law several times by meeting with PLO leader Yasser Arafat, whom he later referred to as his ''brother.'' In 1989 he was jailed for 122 days, with a one-year suspended sentence if he repeated the offense. He did, and was charged again.

Nathan spent virtually all he earned not only to promote his message of peace, but to provide food, medicines and other assistance to people as far away as Biafra Africa, Mexico and Nicaragua, whenever a natural or man-made disaster struck and caused so many to suffer. In fact, his efforts eventually bankrupted him and forced him to shut down his radio station.

Haaretz today wrote of him,

"Over time, he earned a reputation as a maverick peace activist who often took diplomacy into his own hands. He was called a crackpot and a prophet."

...Convinced that people power could succeed where the diplomats had failed, Nathan bought a 188-foot, 570-ton freighter that was partially funded by John Lennon. He anchored it off the coast of Tel Aviv and turned it into a pirate radio station, The Voice of Peace, with a mix of pop songs and peace messages."

"Shalom, salaam and peace to all our listeners," Nathan declared in his maiden broadcast in 1973. "The Peace Ship is a project of the people. We hope through this station we will help relieve the pain and heal the wounds of many years of suffering of the people of the Middle East."

MK Ahmad Tibi, chairman of the United Arab List – Ta'al party, said Nathan was "a brave pioneer and a man of peace. I only regret that few others followed in his footsteps."

Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer: "Abie Nathan was a vanguard, a brave warrior for peace who didn't hesitate to lead the way. The Peace Camp bows its head to a man who has contributed a great deal to changing public opinion in Israel and the world."

Yossi Sarid, the former leader of the leftist Meretz party, said Nathan paved the way for Israel's peace movement. "He was ahead of his time, and he did everything himself," he said.

The following is from Deutche Presse Agenteur.

Veteran Israeli peace campaigner Abie Nathan dies in Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv - Abie Nathan, a maverick Israeli peace campaigner who was flew solo to Egypt in an attempt to meet then-Egyptian president Gamal Abdul Nasser and founded The Voice of Peace radio station which attracted tens of millions of listeners, died Wednesday night in a Tel Aviv hospital. He was 81.

Nathan had suffered a stroke in 1996 and was hospitalized five days before his death, Israel Radio reporter.

Born in Iran, Nathan grew up in India and immigrated to Israel in 1948. He joined the nascent Israel Air Force and after the 1948-49 Arab-Israeli war worked for El Al, Israel's national airline, before opening a restaurant.

After an unsuccessful bid to be elected to the Knesset in 1965 as the head of a small party, he burst into Israel public consciousness in February 1966. Flying a small plane named Peace 1, he took off from a small airfield north of Tel Aviv and headed for Egypt, with whom Israel was still formally at war.

Landing in Port Said, he asked to meet Egyptian President Nasser, but his request was denied and he was deported back to Israel, where he was jailed for traveling to a hostile country.

It was the first, but not the last, of his well-publicized efforts at reconciliation between Israelis and Arabs, which included hunger strikes to protest Israeli settlement policy in the occupied territories, and meeting Yasser Arafat when such parleys were still outlawed in Israel.

Nathan's meeting with the Palestinian leader earned him an 18- month prison sentence, in 1991, which was later commuted to six months.

Apart from his peace efforts, and activities on behalf of disaster relief - he set up refugee camps in Somalia, Ethiopia and Guatemala - Nathan was perhaps best known for his pirate radio station, The Voice of Peace.

Founded in 1973, with its famous call sign, 'from somewhere in the Mediterranean, we are the voice of peace,' the station broadcast from a ship anchored off Israel's territorial waters.

It was launched with the song 'give peace a chance' and in its heyday, its all music-format attracted a listenership of tens of millions in the region.

Nathan was forced to close down the station in 1993, after spiraling operating costs of the ship, coupled with declining advertising revenues, saw its debts mount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

He suffered a stroke in 1996 which left him partly paralysed, and a second stroke around a year later left him without power of speech.

At Nathan's 80th birthday celebrations in April 2007 veteran Israeli statesman Shimon Peres, who would soon become the country's president, remarked that Nathan 'showed that one nan can do for the sake of peace.'

On Wednesday night the president eulogized Nathan as 'a great warrior against war, against poverty and against discrimination.'

'He was the greatest conqueror of hearts and a man of faith in a time when there was none,' Israeli media quoted Peres as saying.

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