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Why Israeli radio transmits in Farsi for listeners in Iran

Iranians in Israel run Radio Radisin, a private, Farsi-language station that tries to build a bridge between Israel and Iran

By Aron HellerAssociated Press / February 7, 2012

Radio Radisin, a private Farsi-language radio station based in Tel Aviv, Israel, airs Iranian music, poetry and current affairs shows.

(AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

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Jerusalem

 While Israeli leaders are increasingly sounding belligerent warnings of a potential military strike against Iran's nuclear installations, a group of Iranian-Israelis are transmitting a different message.

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Radio RADISIN, a private Farsi-language radio station based in Tel Aviv, airs Iranian music, poetry and current affairs shows aiming to spread peace between the Israeli and Iranian people — regardless of who is in power in Tehran.

"We, the people in Israel, are a peaceful nation and not an enemy, or the 'little Satan' as we are described by the Iranian regime," said Shay Amir, the station's 42-year-old CEO, who left Iran for Israel after the 1979 Islamic revolution. "For 32 years, the regime has poisoned its people against Israel. We are here to tell the truth."

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Before the revolution, Israel and Iran were close allies. Some 100,000 Jews of Iranian descent live in Israel today, many with fond memories and still strong ties to friends and relatives in their homeland. An estimated 25,000 Jews still live in Iran.

But now Israel considers Iran its most dangerous foe because of the Islamic Republic's support of Palestinian militant groups, its repeated threats to destroy the Jewish state and its nuclear program.

Israel, like the West, believes Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. Tehran says its nuclear research program is for peaceful purposes only.

Israeli leaders have repeatedly hinted that they would consider taking military action against Iran if they conclude the international community's current approach of diplomacy and sanctions fails. For the first time in nearly two decades, world leaders are genuinely concerned that an Israeli military attack on Iran could be imminent — an action that many fear might trigger a wider war, terrorism and global economic havoc.

Despite harsh economic sanctions and international pressure, Iran is refusing to abandon its nuclear program, which it insists is for purely civilian purposes like producing electricity and medical isotopes.

RADISIN broadcasts 24 hours a day via the Internet, satellite and cable TV. It says 100,000 listeners tune in daily, including an undisclosed number from Iran, where Internet speeds are slow and many sites, including those of political opposition groups, are blocked.

It's not the only Israeli media directed toward Iran. Israel's state-run radio station has been broadcasting in Farsi for 50 years from a spartan studio off a narrow Jerusalem alleyway.

It too chats with Iranians — via a switchboard in Germany to get around a ban on calls from Iran to the Jewish state. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has even named the "Zionist broadcast" as among those behind civilian unrest in his country.

RADISIN relies mainly on anonymous sponsors and donations and it airs some commercials. It takes calls from Iranian listeners who often criticize the regime in Tehran and express affection for Israel.

For fear of exposing these callers — and having them branded as collaborators by the Iranian regime — the station asked The Associated Press not to record the conversations.

Others in Iran have been less enamored by the Israeli broadcast.

"Twice from Iran, they hacked our website and caused damage, and because of this we decided to switch and air via satellite," said Amir.

RELATED: Five ways Iranians and Americans are alike

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