The History of Pirate Radio: Britain and Israel

Rebel Ships: Radio Caroline and the Voice of Peace

Al Jazeera (2021)

Film Review

This documentary compares and contrasts two pirate radio ships that launched in 1964 and 1973 when their countries of origin sought to ban the content they wished to broadcast.

Radio Caroline began broadcasting from international waters off the east coast of Britain on Easter 1964* to resist a British ban on rock and roll music. At the time, the government-owned BBC held a tight monopoly on all broadcasting and refused to license private commercial stations. They also declined to play rock and roll music popular with Radio Caroline supporters. Facing a two-year sentence for broadcasting without a license, disk jockeys initially used false names.

The Voice of Peace began broadcasting from the eastern Mediterranean when the Israeli government declined to give them a license. Its purpose was to counter Israeli aggression against its Arab neighbors.

The British government made only one serious attempt to shut Radio Caroline down. During the 1985 Eurosiege, a British naval vessel blockaded the Ross Revenge (the ship from which the station broadcast) from receiving fresh supplies and personnel. The blockade backfired when every newspaper and broadcast channel in Europe gave the pirate station massive free publicity. At the time many, much of the British public believed Caroline had ceased to broadcast.

Radio Caroline was only boarded (illegally*) only once. in 1989 Dutch police with guns boarded to confiscate and smash all their equipment. This proved only a temporary setback. Massive donations from Radio Caroline supporters enabled them to start up again after a few months.

In 1990, following the shipwreck of the Ross Revenge, all six of their crew were rescued by the British Air Force.

Obtaining a new trawler, Radio Caroline continued to broadcast via ship until 1998. From 1998 to 2013, it broadcast via satellite starting in 2000. In 2017, the British government finally granted them an AM band license, though they continue to broadcast one weekend a month from the new Ross Revenge moored in the Blackwater River in Essex.

Voice for Peace, founded in 1973 by Abie Nathan, did not fare so well. Nathan scuttled his peace ship in 1993, in part owing to economic and legal difficulties.  Another reason was his mistaken belief that the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords would resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict. (See The Price of Oslo: How the Peace Accords Set the Palestinian Cause Back 20 Years)

*Easter 1964 was chosen by Radio Caroline co-founder Ronan O’Rahilly to celebrate Ireland’s 1916 Easter Rising against the British.

**The Law of the Sea is a body of customs, treaties, and international agreements by which governments maintain order, productivity, and peaceful relations on the sea.

The full film can be viewed free at

The Price of Oslo: How the Oslo Accords Set the Palestinian Cause Back 20 Years

The Price of Oslo

Al Jazeera (2013)

Film Review

The Price of Oslo is a two part documentary about the 1993 Oslo Accords, which according to many analysts, set the Palestinian cause back at least 20 years.

Episode 1 explores the background leading both Palestine and Israel to accept Norway as a “neutral” mediator. Israel welcomed the participation of Norway, as they replaced Iran as Israel’s primary oil supplier after the Shah was overthrown in 1977. In addition Norway’s ruling pro-Zionist Socialist Labor Party had extremely close ties with Israel’s ruling Socialist Labor Party.

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) accepted Norway’s mediator role because of close personal ties they developed with Norwegian soldiers deployed as UN peacekeepers after Israel’s 1978 invasion of south Lebanon.*

Many Mideast analysts believe the PLO was on the verge of collapse in the late 1980s,  when Norway offered to set up a secret back channel for Arafat to participate in secret negotiations with the Israeli government.

The Norwegian government subsequently arranged for Palestinian and Israeli delegates to hold secret talks in Oslo and Israel under the auspices of FAFO, a Norwegian trade union think tank allegedly conducting “research” in Israel.

* The PLO was headquartered in Lebanese refugee camps prior to their expulsion from Lebanon in 1982.

Episode 2 describes how the secret FAFO negotiations took place in parallel with “official” Washington DC negotiations overseen by the Clinton administration. It also reveals how the entire Palestinian delegation disagreed with the concessions Arafat demanded they consent to. They most vehemently disagreed with Israel’s “deal breakers” that negotiations not include the status of Jerusalem, the right of return of Palestinian refugees, nor UN involvement in the ultimate peace settlement.

In the final Oslo Accords signed in August 1993, the Palestinians were granted limited autonomy (an elected Palestinian Authority) in areas of the occupied West Bank and Gaza that excluded “military zones” and Israeli settlements. In return, the Palestinians agreed to allow Israel to assume overall responsibility for “security,” to allow continued building of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine and to vigorously police “terrorist” activities carried on by anti-Israeli activists.

The only concession the PLO received was an agreement for the Israeli Defense Force to withdraw from Jericho and Gaza.**

Renowned Palestinian scholar and activist Edward Said was deeply shocked by the concessions Arafat agreed to, which he blamed on the “decay” of the PLO leadership. The Oslo Accord, according to Said, transformed the PLO from a “movement of national liberation to a municipality.” Owing to the extreme secrecy under which they occurred, Israel came out the clear winner of the Oslo negotiations. Had the Palestinian people known about the self-defeating concessions Arafat was making, they would never have allowed them to go forward.

With the Palestinian Authority brutally policing their own dissidents and activists to enforce “peace” in Israel/Palestine, the most important outcome for Israel was hundreds of millions in foreign investment.

*It would take the IDF until 2006 to withdraw from Gaza. (see The Back Story on Hamas)