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Interview Archives

Between 2004 and 2010, Just Vision interviewed more than 80 Palestinian and Israeli grassroots leaders. The interviews in this archive represent a fraction of the civic leaders working in the field at a particular moment in time, and aim to provide audiences access to a range of perspectives and approaches.

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Orly Noy

Orly Noy is an editor at Local Call, a political activist, and a translator of Farsi poetry and prose. She is a member of B’Tselem’s executive board and an activist with the Balad political party. Her writing deals with the lines that intersect and define her identity as Mizrahi, a female leftist, a woman, a temporary migrant living inside a perpetual immigrant, and the constant dialogue between them. When she was nine years old, Orly Noy immigrated to Israel from Iran during Iran's Islamic revolution. 

  • Where are you from and how did you get involved in the peace work you are doing now?

    I grew up in Iran. We left Iran in the 1979 revolution.1 Because of all the commotion of the revolution, all of my memories from my early childhood are kind of mixed. But I remember having a very good life there. When the revolution started it was kind of obvious that it was going to be really, really different, and that we had to find someplace else. Not because there was any kind of anti-Semitic message from the authorities, not at all. To this day they are very anti-Israel, but they are not very anti-Semitic at all.2 We just felt that being a religious Muslim country it wasn't going to be the same. We moved to Jerusalem and I've lived here ever since. I actually studied in a religious girls' school called Pelech.3 This was one of the places that really taught me to think critically, and to criticize everything. I really liked my school. Then I went to the army, of course to the Intelligence, because I speak Farsi.4 I was there for 2 1/2 years. I was supposed to leave the army when the First Gulf War started, and they asked me to stay for longer.

    • 1"In January 1979, the (pro-western) Shah fled and Khomeini established an Islamic republic. The theocracy was profoundly conservative and anti-western. In July 1979, the oil industry was renationalized. In November 1979, militants seized the US Embassy in Tehran, taking 52 American hostages." World Encyclopedia. Philip's, 2004. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.  CDL UC Berkeley.  19 December
    • 2One guide offers an explanation: the new Iranian regime "could not altogether disclaim the traditional responsibilities toward the dhimmis (protected non-Muslim minorities) that devolved upon a Muslim ruler, nor could it ignore the declared loyalty of the Jewish minority toward the new regime. Since then, officially, the regime has made a distinction between Jews and Zionists, which is still generally valid in public announcements, but is so blurred as to be often difficult to discern." "Anti-Semitism Worldwide 1999/2000: Iran" Stephen Roth Institute, Tel Aviv University http://www.tau.ac.il/Anti-Semitism/asw99-2000/iran.htm
    • 3"The Pelech School is a religious high school for girls in Jerusalem. The school was established as an ultra-Orthodox school by educators who wanted to expand the range of subjects studied by religious girls." http://www.nif.org/content.cfm?id=1731&currbody=1
    • 4Iran's official language (also spoken by some in Afghanistan).

  • You did something totally unrelated before you began working at the radio station, so what were you doing before and how did you come to work at All For Peace Radio?

    It's actually very much connected in my opinion. I worked with many disadvantaged sectors in society, with blind people, with young girls in distress who were kicked out of their houses. For a long time I worked with mentally challenged people and the elderly. To me, in the bigger sense of the word politics, it's all connected, because it's the way that we as society want to treat our weaker parts, and it's how we as a society are weakening these groups. Be it the elderly or the Palestinians, it's our doing, so it's our responsibility to take care of these people later. I always thought that was my field and that was what I was going to do for the rest of my career years, but then this opportunity came about and I was really excited about it. I've known Shimon1 since I was doing my BA.2 He offered me this job once or twice and I hesitated. I had just come back from a year in America, and it was just after my second child and I was looking for something familiar, going back to work with mentally challenged people or something like that. And then Shimon tried once more, and I said, "Well, this is something important." So I gave it a try and I really like it.

    • 1Shimon Malka and Maysa Baransi-Siniora, the radio station's co-directors http://www.allforpeace.org/staff.aspx?pageid=7&lang=1
    • 2Bachelor of Arts, a university degree.

  • What did you like about the idea of All For Peace radio?

    Well, to begin with, anything that combines Israelis and Palestinians I think is blessed. Anything - whether it's art, movies, or science, anything that brings the two societies together. But because this particular coming together also has a voice, which is the voice of radio, I thought it was such a great idea. Because there used to be a Voice of Peace radio station,1 which was an excellent radio station, but they escaped into a third language, into English, and I thought, this is exactly how it should be done, Hebrew and Arabic, and not broadcasting from a remote boat on the sea, but from Ramallah, and sitting in Jerusalem! And I thought that was a great idea.

    • 1"[T]he pirate programming beamed to Israel by Abie Nathan from a ship anchored 'somewhere in the Mediterranean' over a decade ago." http://www.peacenow.org/links.html

  • Can you talk about what your typical day is like, all your tasks associated with this job?

    Well since I am single handedly the Israeli desk right now... basically I have to come up with the ideas for the items that I want to do, and then think about who would be the right person to talk with about the specific issue, and then try to locate him. And then try to have him accept to do an interview and record the actual interview.

  • Can you explain how it works, what the radio station is, how the languages are used?

    I think it's the first attempt in Israel to do a bi-lingual radio station,1 so we had to really invent everything from scratch. For example, do we do one program using both languages, do we translate as we go along, do we do completely different programs, which is what we did eventually. There were so many decisions to be made, even technically - the music we're going to play, things like that. So what we do right now is two completely different programs in Arabic and in Hebrew. The idea is to approach different subjects, not only regarding Palestinian and Israeli issues. For me issues within Israeli society are very important. I have at least one item every show about injustices within Israeli society. It's just as important I think. But the first item we do is something more alive, something more current from the news of the morning. And then, and I like this part very much, we translate the other side's newspapers in the morning, the headlines at least. I do a translation of Al Quds and Al Ayaam2 into Hebrew, and Adele Zumot translates Yedioth Aharonoth and Ha'aretz3 in Arabic. And that brings a sense of what is going on on the other side at least.

    • 1Hard to verify or disprove. Though she made the claim with more confidence in a letter exchange on BBC on-line, "Mid-East pen friends part 5: Violence" 3/30/04 BBC News http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3568835.stm
    • 2Two of the main Palestinian newspapers (meaning "Jerusalem," and "The Days," respectively). Al Quds website: http://www.alquds.com/. Al Ayaam: http://www.al-ayyam.com/znews/site/default.aspx
    • 3One of the hosts on All For Peace radio. http://www.allforpeace.org/staff.aspx?pageid=7&lang=1

  • How did the decision to do two separate shows in Arabic and Hebrew come about?

    We thought that we were going to end up alienating both sides if they had to hear both languages at once. If I don't understand Arabic, it will just be annoying to me to hear the sound of a language that I don't understand, and that I also resent somehow. So we thought, let the people just hear one hour in Hebrew, a language they know and understand, and through that, familiarize them with the subjects we want to discuss. But if we mix the two languages together we would end up losing both sides. That was the rationale.

  • Do you have input into what is broadcast in Arabic?

    No. The only input I do have is that we help each other a lot to find people. The language barrier is a huge one. If Adele wants to explain something to the Palestinians about the Israeli society, she has to find Israelis who speak Arabic, and this is where we help each other a lot. They try to help me find Arabs who speak Hebrew, and I do the same for them. Sometimes we make suggestions to each other, but I don't have a say in her program, or vice versa.

  • What language does the staff speak together?

    Hebrew. Their Hebrew is better than our Arabic. That's the only reason. I try, but the thing is that I studied Fus-ha1 for so many years that my spoken Arabic is not so hot. So for them it's easier, I think, to express themselves. Firas,2 for example, I think he's making a point to speak in Arabic and I appreciate it very much. Also because it improves my Arabic, but I think that is the way to do it. Actually, at the beginning I now remember that we said that everybody would speak in his own language, but somehow it has worked out more easily for everybody to speak in Hebrew.

    • 1Classical Arabic.
    • 2A production assistant at All For Peace Radio. http://www.allforpeace.org/staff.aspx?pageid=7&lang=1

  • How do you feel about the staff defaulting to Hebrew?

    I think obviously it's another sign of occupying power. Hebrew is an occupying power over the Palestinians. It's funny how it's almost taken for granted by us that they would speak Hebrew and we wouldn't speak Arabic.

  • When you first heard about the radio station, did you have any concerns about how the team atmosphere would be?

    No, although I think I had a very different, I guess somehow a romantic image of what it would be like. Actually the worry started afterwards. We came from very different points of view even as to the project itself, and the worries came later.

  • You mentioned staff members had very different ideas about the project itself. Can you say more?

    They looked at it almost completely, or 80% professionally, and maybe 20% as a co-existence project. I mean, obviously they came to this station because they liked the idea of co-existence, but for them the first task was to do the best professional job that they could do, and I didn't look at it that way in the beginning. And I think they were right, we had to learn how to be professional very quickly. There were different views of the project.

  • What are some of the biggest challenges right now in your work at the radio station?

    The biggest challenge right now is not up to us, it's to put the radio on air! I think for me the biggest challenge is to somehow synchronize the two programs so they won't be so separate from one another. I think they have to be connected, in essence, much more than they are. Right now, in a way, it's like you took an Israeli radio station and an Arabic radio station and they are just sharing time on the same internet or the same signal. But I think it shouldn't be that way, I think we have to work much more closely, share the contents or what we are going to do with each other, and maybe build a line-up of issues that we're going to deal with in both programs. I think it's really important to give this a feeling of one instead of two different things.

  • Did you anticipate that there would be problems connecting the content of the Arabic and Hebrew programs?

    The problem is really technical, because if she goes through the newspapers and finds something that's interesting for her, the chances that I can find somebody who speaks Hebrew and can talk about the same subject are very slim. More than anything, it's a problem of language. It's really difficult, because there are so many interesting things that I would like to discuss, and there aren't enough people on each side who speak the other language.

  • You said some of the stories you do are more related to current events. Can you give me an example of some of the stories you've done?

    Every day we try to approach the hottest subject of the day, so for weeks unfortunately it was the Gaza thing.1 So I had two or three Palestinian journalists from Gaza to just describe what was going on there. I thought this was very important because all the information that we hear of what is going on there is from Israeli journalists, who are very far from being objective. Sometimes we have tried to do the morning interviews with Knesset members, but I hated it, I absolutely hated it, because I thought, "We shouldn't give them more radio time to repeat the nonsense that they are repeating every place else. We shouldn't give them another stage to do this." So I really try to avoid it, from both sides of the political map, from the Left and the Right, they are not saying anything new. There is nothing interesting about what they have to say.

    • 1In May 2004 the Israeli army invaded Rafah at the southern end of the Gaza Strip after Palestinians blew up an Israeli army tank on the Israeli controlled Philadelphia Road, the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. See http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/05/19/world/main618315.shtml

  • If you're not working together on the programs themselves, what is the nature of the joint work that is going on between Israelis and Palestinians at the radio station?

    Sharing the same space I guess! It's sad for me to say, but right now it's really not much more than that. And I get a lot of help, especially from Firas, he's very well connected with Palestinian sources, so within a phone call he can get me any name and phone number that I want. It's a great help, but it's technical help and he's well known, so if I mention his name it makes it much more easy for me.

  • For someone who doesn't know much about this place and about the other media outlets that are available, how do you explain why what you are doing is important?

    Well, there is a myth about the Israeli media being left wing, and it's like the silliest thing. I know that this is how they would want to see themselves, but it's very far... because the left in Israeli is a kind of an elite, and the media would like to see itself as part of that elite, but it has nothing to do with basic ideas of socialism, or democracy, or truth or justice. But the Israeli media really so easily just bring to the people what the army wants them to tell the people, they hardly ever investigate anything. Even the picture that you see if somebody is reporting from Gaza, he is not really inside, he's just standing at the checkpoint and he calls it reporting from Gaza and tells us what the army spokesperson tells him to say. The conflict is one aspect of the Israeli and Palestinian society, but the Palestinian society, like the Israeli one, is a whole entity, and there is so much more going on there that we don't know about. I was amazed by the amount of art projects going on just in Ramallah since I started working here. If the Israelis knew that these people are trying to live their lives as normally as they can under the circumstances, that these are people who are interested in art and in movies, and they have scientists, maybe we would learn to look at them differently. We know so much more about what is going on in America than in any given place on earth, and we don't know anything about those who really live next door. So for me that is really the number one task of what we are trying to do.

  • Was there something that surprised you since you started doing this work?

    I was surprised by the humor, I'm not talking about anything specifically, I was surprised by how much humor they can have in these horrible circumstances. Both the staff and other Palestinians I have interviewed. It was nice for me to see. There are of course, many Palestinians who refuse to speak with us.