Tuesday, June 23, 2009

How Israel Helps The Iran Protesters--And What More It Can Do

Israel is doing its share to help the protesters in Iran:
The spread of the Internet and satellite television in Iran over the past decade seemed to eclipse the prominence of Mr. Amir's old-fashioned shortwave broadcasts on Kol Israel, Israel's public radio. But now, as the Web in Iran is either blocked or dramatically slowed and satellite-TV channels are jammed by the government amid spreading unrest, Mr. Amir has suddenly become relevant again.

"Today we have many more listeners inside the country because Iranians are thirsty for any information" about the unrest, the 69-year-old Mr. Amir says. He estimates the Iranian audience for Kol Israel's 85-minute daily show in Persian is between two million and six million people. Independent audience numbers, for obvious reasons, are impossible to come by.

Though semiretired, Mr. Amir has been hosting the show every day since Iran's controversial June 12 elections, narrating news summaries and taking live telephone calls from listeners within Iran. The call-in part of the broadcast, normally a weekly feature, is now on air daily due to the current unrest. Because Iran bans phone and postal links with Israel, Iranian callers dial a special number in Germany; as a precaution, Mr. Amir asks them not to mention their names or hometowns.
In fact, Kol Israel has been so successful that it has claimed pride of place as Ayatollah Khamenei's least favorite foreign media source:
Kol Israel, of course, isn't the only foreign radio station broadcasting in Persian. The British Broadcasting Corporation, the Voice of America and U.S.-funded Radio Farda also beam into the Islamic Republic. Ayatollah Khamenei, however, on Friday singled out Kol Israel, naming it first in his tirade against alleged foreign interference in Iranian affairs.

"The enemies are trying through their media, which is controlled by dirty Zionists. The Zionist, U.S. and U.K. radio are all trying to say that there was a competition between those who supported and those who didn't support the state," the ayatollah said, insisting that all presidential candidates fully accepted the Islamic Republic and its government system. "Accusing the government of corruption because of Zionist reports is not the right thing."
In Israel's rare opportunity, Caroline Glick suggests that Israel could do even more:
Although Israel is far away from Iran, it has significant capacity to help the demonstrators. It could use its communication satellites to break through the communications blackout the regime has attempted to enforce. Its Internet capabilities can be offered to the protesters to reopen closed networks. Israel could temporarily expand its radio broadcasts into the country and allow its airwaves to be used to broadcast events on the ground in real time so that protesters won't have to rely on word of mouth to know what is happening or where things are leading.
Now that Netanyahu is speaking openly in support of the protesters, maybe Israel will do more to help.

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