Los Angeles’ Israeli Consul-General Ehud Danoch made history on Sunday, Sept. 2, by becoming the first Israeli official in more than 25 years to directly address the people of Iran via live television.
Danoch appeared on “Roundtable With You,” a Persian-language call-in program that features interviews with newsmakers and personalities in the news. The show is broadcast by the Voice of America (VOA) in Washington, D.C. It airs nightly to an audience of about 20 million to 25 million viewers in Iran and worldwide.
“By having this interview with the Voice of America by satellite, which no one can stop, maybe the moderate people in Iran will understand that we extend our hand in peace to all of our neighbors and them in Iran,” Danoch said, in an interview. “I wanted to make it clear that we in Israel distinguish between the people of Iran and the regime’s leaders.”
The program featuring Danoch was also simulcast on VOA’s Persian-language satellite radio program and on its Web site through streaming video.
The VOA broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of news and educational programming every week to more than 115 million people worldwide in various languages. VOA broadcasts six hours of Persian television each day, and among international broadcasters, it has the largest combined radio and television audience.
“Roundtable” host Bijan Farhoodi said he was impressed with the tremendous response from Iranian viewers generated by Danoch’s appearance.
“I think Mr. Danoch came across very professionally, and his message of peace coming from an Israeli official really resonated with the viewers in Iran, who called and e-mailed in positive things about Israel,” said Farhoodi, a 27-year veteran journalist.
During the hourlong broadcast, Farhoodi covered a wide range of topics, including Iran’s support for the Hezbollah and Hamas terrorist groups, Holocaust denial statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, as well as the Iranian government’s escalating calls for Israel’s destruction.
Several viewers’ e-mails read on the air expressed sympathy for Israelis, as well as concern over the Iranian government’s efforts to provoke Israel and the United States into war.
Danoch also fielded hostile questions, with one pro-Ahmadinejad caller asking why “Germany and Europe have not given land to the Jews for causing the Holocaust.”
“We make our show very objective and cover all sides of the issues, because our viewers in Iran really rely on us to give fair news, since the other Persian-language satellite programs in the U.S. are only spouting hate for the regime,” Farhoodi said. “You also have to realize that some people in Iran are terrified to openly speak in favor of Israel for fear of [what] the government might do to them.”
Danoch’s appearance on the VOA program is part of an ongoing strategy by the Israeli consulate to reach local and U.S.-based Iranian Muslim-owned, Persian-language news outlets that broadcast to Iran. The consulate’s goal is to help change the hearts and minds of average Iranians who are being indoctrinated with hate for Israel through anti-Israel propaganda put out by Iran’s fundamentalist Islamic regime, Danoch said.
“My message to the people of Iran was that we want to live in peace and prosperity with them,” he said. “I cannot comprehend how such good and talented people, such a civilization, is being held hostage by a regime which is completely the opposite of these people.”
The Israeli consulate has held a series of informational meetings and press conferences since August 2006 for local Persian-language media outlets to educate its journalists about Israel. The consulate is also hoping to learn more about the current sentiments of the Iranian people.
The L.A. consulate has not been alone in its efforts to win support for Israel among Iranians worldwide. In July, the Israeli Foreign Ministry officially launched its Persian-language Web site, Hamdami. The site provides news of Iranian government activities and educates Iranians about Israel.
In addition, the site allows for an interactive dialogue between average Iranians in Iran and Israeli officials, as well as information on the Shoah in response to Ahmadinejad’s repeated statements denying the Holocaust.
Last month, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman answered questions from listeners in Iran during a live broadcast by Israel Radio’s Persian-language news segment. The show has become a popular satellite radio program for Iranians living in Iran who seek more objective news.
While his term in Los Angeles ends next month, Danoch said his successor most likely will continue outreach to local Persian-language news outlets.