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Cablegate: Idf Raids Bethlehem Radio Station, Confiscates

VZCZCXRO3596
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHJM #1560 2401440
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 281440Z AUG 09
FM AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5917
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS JERUSALEM 001560

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

NEA FOR NEA/IPA AND EEB, STATE PASS USAID FOR BORODIN, NSC
FOR KUMAR, JOINT STAFF FOR SELVA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID KPAO PREL KWBG KPAL IS PHUM
SUBJECT: IDF RAIDS BETHLEHEM RADIO STATION, CONFISCATES
TRANSMITTERS

REF: 8/28 MARCHESE/MORENO EMAIL

1. (U) This message includes an action request in para 7.

2. (SBU) Summary. On August 25, the IDF raided the popular
Palestinian radio station "Bethlehem 2000," confiscating two
transmitters. The PA Ministry of Telecommunications
protested the lack of warning and coordination, and requested
USG assistance in raising the issue with the GOI. End Summary.

IDF Raid Shuts Down Popular Palestinian Radio Station
--------------------------------------------- --------

3. (SBU) On the night of August 25, the IDF raided the office
of Palestinian radio station "Bethlehem 2000", located in the
West Bank town of Beit Jala, and confiscated two
transmitters, forcing the station to cut its broadcast.
Bethlehem 2000's broadcast covers Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and
Ramallah. The station describes itself as "a voice for social
justice and reconciliation" that broadcasts news, music,
political, social, and children's programs. The station is
also part of the Internews/USAID development program, and was
recently vetted by USAID.

Interference with Aviation or Israeli Radio Station?
--------------------------------------------- -------

4. (SBU) An IDF spokesman told the press that the station was
raided because it interfered with transmissions at Ben Gurion
Airport, a claim echoed by the Israeli Ministry of
Communication to Embassy Tel Aviv (ref email). However,
COGAT informed both the Embassy and the PA Ministry of
Telecommunications that Bethlehem 2000's transmission was
interfering with the Israeli radio station Galgalatz's Eilat
broadcast on the same frequency (106.4 FM).

5. (SBU) According to Bethlehem 2000 station manager George
Canawati, the station has been operating with the same
frequency type and strength for the past eight years, and has
the required permit from the PA (a copy dated January 1, 2009
was passed to the ConGen.) Canawati explained that, five
months ago, the GOI confiscated some transmission equipment
belonging to Bethlehem 2000's Hebron frequency (108 FM),
claiming that it interfered with Israeli aviation
communication. Bethlehem 2000 changed its frequency from 108
FM to 89.8 FM, and the equipment was returned. (Note: GOI
officials may be confusing the Hebron incident with the
latest raid, which may explain the two different explanations
for the August 25 equipment seizure.)

PA: Coordination with GOI on Previous Cases Successful
--------------------------------------------- ---------

6. (SBU) Both Galgalaz and Bethlehem 2000 have been
broadcasting on the same frequency for years, and similar
cases of transmission interference between the Palestinian
and Israeli radio stations has occurred due to technical
reasons, according to PA Deputy Telecom Minister Suleiman
Zuhairi. However, he said, previous cases were successfully
resolved through coordination between the PA and the GOI. In
the past, the GOI would inform Zuhairi, and he would instruct
the radio station to lower its antennae or adjust its filter
to put a stop to any transmission interference. Zuhairi said
that, in this instance, neither the PA nor the radio station
had been informed of the interference, and the raid had been
conducted without any warning. Zuhairi said that the PA
planned to send a letter to the GOI and the International
Telecommunications Union (ITU) protesting the raid and
requesting the return of the transmitters.

7. (U) Action Request: Post recommends that the issue be
raised with appropriate GOI officials to determine how it can
be resolved and the transmitters returned, so that Bethlehem
2000 can return to the air.
WALLES

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