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Top Israeli minister shuts down TV station for Palestinian citizens

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan orders Musawa, a Ramallah-based television station catering to Israel’s Arab citizens, to be shut down for violating Israeli sovereignty. 

By Makbula Nassar

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan speaks during the annual Herzliya Conference, June 16, 2016. (photo: Adi Cohen-Zeked/Herzliya Conference)

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan speaks during the annual Herzliya Conference, June 16, 2016. (photo: Adi Cohen-Zeked/Herzliya Conference)

For the second time in a year, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan has ordered the closure of a Palestinian media outlet.

The satellite station in question, Musawa, was originally launched in March 2015 under the name “Palestine 48,” is broadcasted through the Egyptian satellite company “Nile-Sat,” and receives its funding from the Palestinian Authority. Its broadcasts are based in Ramallah and are catered for Arab citizens of Israel. Today most of its content is produced by Arab producers based in Israel.

Last Thursday the Public Security Ministry announced that the closure order would be signed after it became clear that the station functions on behalf of the Palestinian Authority inside Israeli territory without the proper written permit, as is required by the Oslo Accords. “I will not allow any harm to come to Israeli sovereignty or allow the Palestinian Authority to make a foothold inside state territory,” Erdan said in a statement. The order will remain in effect for six months.

Although Erdan already signed an order to close the station in July 2015, its activities did not actually cease: regular broadcasts continued and talk shows were broadcasted live from Ramallah, all while the guests traveled to PA territory on a regular basis to talk about issues pertinent to Arabs living in Israel. Several months ago the station returned to its studios in Nazareth, using local producers, after it changed its name and branding so as to avoid confrontations with the Israeli authorities.

Ramzi Hakim, a senior news anchor for the station who also works for the Al-Arz production company (which was also shut down by the Public Security Ministry), told +972’s Hebrew sister site, Local Call, that Erdan’s decision has “no legal basis.” According to Hakim, the studios and production services in Nazareth are owned and run by Al-Arz, which provides services to a number of stations in the area and the world, including Musawa. Hakim emphasizes that they are currently continuing as usual.

Sanaa Hammoud (left), and Palestinian Communications Minister Riad Hassan (center) at a press conference for the launch of Palestine 48. (Courtesy photo)

Sanaa Hammoud (left), and Palestinian Communications Minister Riad Hassan (center) at a press conference for the launch of Palestine 48, Musawa’s precursor. (Courtesy photo)

The language used by the Public Security Ministry hints at the fact that the decision to shut down the station is based on updated intelligence. Yet the fact of the matter is that production, which started anew in Nazareth over the past few months, is not so secret at all. After all, it is impossible to maintain discretion during live broadcasts or filming outside the studio. Broadcasts over the past few months has focused on entertainment, current affairs, political discussions and Arab dramas, while news was not shown. The station directors in the Palestinian Authority have made clear every step of the way that they do not wish to broadcast anti-Israeli content, and have expressed their desire to include as many Jewish-Israeli voices as possible.

The Palestinian Broadcasting Company issued a response to the decision, calling Erdan’s move part of Israel’s policy of shutting down free speech and restricting Palestinian media outlets. According to the company, Israel ought to be focusing on shutting down media outlets that allow the settlers to incite to violence and call for setting families on fire.

Punishing Abbas

Looking at Erdan’s use of “sovereignty” as an reason to shut down the station, one would think Israel respects its side of the Oslo agreements. This sounds especially absurd when taking into account Israel’s daily violations of Palestinian sovereignty in PA-controlled areas, including through arrests of elected officials — not to mention 22 Palestinian journalists — some of whom are continually held without charges or put on trial.

The Israeli army has previously entered PA-controlled areas and raided buildings belonging to Palestinian media outlets located in the heart of Ramallah. In 2012 soldiers raided studios belonging to “Watan” television station, as well as the educational “Al-Quds” channel in Ramallah. Soldiers destroyed equipment and arrested four journalists at their place of work. Similar steps were also taken against “Falesteen al-Yom” and “Trans Media” in Ramallah.

A member of Israel's Border Police assaults journalists and medics assembled near Al Bireh, West Bank (photo: Fadi Arouri)

An Israeli Border Policeman pepper sprays Palestinian journalists and medics during clashes near Al Bireh, West Bank. (photo: Fadi Arouri)

Ever since the station’s establishment, the behavior of Israeli authorities vis-a-vis Musawa has been two-faced. In both cases the closure orders were signed after months of activity, such that it does not seem like preventing the broadcasts was as urgent as one would think. Over the past few months the station has resumed its work without any problems — and with the full knowledge of the authorities. The station regularly broadcasts interviews with Israeli journalists as well as Knesset members from Zionist parties. Even the Public Security Ministry spokesperson regularly provides responses to the station’s journalists, treating Musawa just as it would any other media outlet.

One can view the timing of the order as a way to punish Mahmoud Abbas — a big supporter of the station — after he falsely accused rabbis of calling to poison of Palestinian wells (a statement he later retracted), as well as his refusal to meet with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. But it doesn’t end there: two weeks ago Muhammad Al-Madani, the PA liaison to Israel who helped establish the station, was barred from entering Israel for “subversive behavior.”

It is clear that Israel is trying to hinder media outlets that cater to Israel’s Arab citizens, which are free of oversight from Israel’s Government Advertising Agency as well as the Government Press Office. After all, this is channel is free of conditions and limitations laid down by the Israel Broadcasting Authority (especially when the station in question has the potential to reach large numbers of people), and which is captured on satellite dishes in every Arab home across Israel — and all without Israeli mediation.

Makbula Nasser, active in political and feminist affairs, is a journalist and hosts a show on current affairs on Radio Al-Shams, where she’s worked for over 10 years. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call, where she is a blogger. Read it here.

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    1. Lewis from Afula

      Its always a good idea to close down illegal PLO propaganda. It only radicalizes Israeli Arabs and makes them go and stab people.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        This kind of troll comment is embarrassingly racist and offensive and hypocritical. It treats the Arabs citizens of Israel as mindless imbeciles stoked by “incitement” and dismisses what you do to them. Your supremacism, your open contempt for the Palestinians and their experience, your anti-Palestinianism, directed at Arabs, is akin to anti-Semitism directed at Jews.

        Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        “The station directors in the Palestinian Authority have made clear every step of the way that they do not wish to broadcast anti-Israeli content, and have expressed their desire to include as many Jewish-Israeli voices as possible.”

        It’s not about security, it’s about politicide.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Average American

      Lewis: We witness the Jewish mindset with your comment. The mindset comes from training. The training is from The Torah. It says wonderful things like non-Jews are animals, a Jew can lie to a goyim, goyim are here to serve Jews, the Noahide laws are here to subjugate goyim to Courts of the Sanhedrin which are to be established everywhere if you don’t want the Jews to destroy you in The Coming Time. Listen and hear.

      Reply to Comment
      • i_like_ike52

        Thank you for revealing what you really are, under your moniker “Average American”. You, like so many who think like you, really couldn’t care less about the Palestinians and “human rights”, or the civil wars in Iraq and Syria. You merely have a certain ax to grind. I won’t use the word which describes you, but it certainly fits. Fortunately, real “average Americans” don’t think like you. That must be frustrating for you.

        Reply to Comment
        • John Piantanida

          Actually, as another average American, I think he was correct but being too kind. Your agenda and your time to continue lying to achieve it is coming to an end. But don’t fear, no one wants you to flee as a refugee as you seem to want the Palestinians to. We just want you (and will in time force you) to be honest and fair. Two words that have long been omitted from your vocabulary unless you are playing the victim so as to hide your oppression and constant lies. It reminds me of an old joke…. “Question: How do you know when a Zionist is lying? Answer: You are a goyim and/or he says he wants peace”. Stop playing us for stupid, and at least be honest with your intentions. We still won’t like it, and will fight it, but at least honesty earns you some respect.

          Reply to Comment
      • Carmen

        Average American: “We witness the Jewish mindset with your comment”.

        You’re witnessing the typical comments of a xenophobic man who claims to be from Afula. He doesn’t represent me or any other Jews I know or most Jews outside of the zionist experiment. Also, the torah and the talmud are two completely different stories. There’ve been and continue to be prominent rabbis who most definitely claim that Jews are superior to non-Jews and the ‘goyim’ are meant to serve the Jews. That’s the racist supremacist ideology of some Jews, but doesn’t represent all Jews. Neither does ISIS represent all Muslims. Hamas doesn’t represent all Palestinians; neither does the PLO for that matter. Though many KKKers profess to be Christian, would you then say all Christians are Klan?

        However, zionism is the driving force that made the Nakba and the present apartheid state. Even though the voices of dissent can barely be heard above the drone (no pun intended) of Netanyahoo and his cabinet, especially the voices of Palestinian MKs, especially Ms. Haneen Zoabi, the right has a death grip on this region and I don’t say that lightly. The voices of dissent have to start screaming to be heard.

        Reply to Comment