Israel plans to shut down a new Arabic-language television station that services Palestinian citizens of Israel.
The station’s name – Palestine 48 – refers to the parts of the country occupied by Israel during the Nakba, the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homeland. It launched pilot broadcasts last week and began programming today.
Yet Israel’s hardline Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already asked the ministry of communications to shut the station down.
“The prime minister ordered the ministry to take any and all action within its purview, both criminal and bureaucratic, to stop the broadcasts,” reports the Israeli news outlet Ynet. “One of the main elements of the ministry’s investigation will be the legality of the Palestinian Authority’s funding of the station.”
Israeli efforts to close down the television station, which receives funding from the Palestinian Authority, are only the latest in a lengthy history of cracking down on Palestinian media in present-day Israel, the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
“Daily routine” of persecution
Israeli authorities have made “persecuting Palestinian cultural and media institutions a daily routine,” said Majd Kayyal, the media coordinator at Adalah, a Haifa-based legal center that represents Palestinians in Israel.
“Israeli authorities either try to cut the funding of these cultural or media groups or, if not possible, threaten them with immediate closure by force,” Kayyal told The Electronic Intifada, adding that Israel “tries to intimidate” any media outlet that “doesn’t heed the political line of the right-wing ruling class.”
Riad Hassan, the Palestinian Authority’s communications minister, has also denounced Netanyahu’s campaign against Palestine 48. “Neither Netanyahu nor his radical right-wing government can shut down the station,” he said at a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
“The prime minister will only be able to shut us down if he comes to Ramallah with his forces and occupies the communications ministry building and destroys our equipment,” he said, according to the Ynet report. “We are acting according to law, and are not physically inside of Israel, but are paying for services of licensed companies.”
The station will aim to broadcast about the issues important to Palestinian citizens of Israel, estimated to number 1.7 million people. A diverse community of Muslims, Christians and Druze, they live in communities across the country and suffer from dozens of discriminatory laws, according to Adalah.
Human rights groups have consistently documented Israel’s attacks on Palestinian and international media outlets and press workers.
According to the Gaza Center for Media Freedom, 2014 was the “bloodiest year” ever for Palestinians journalists. The Gaza Center documented 295 Israeli press violations in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza last year.
Palestine 48 wouldn’t be the first Palestinian station to be closed down by force, either. Israeli occupation authorities have tried to shut down the Ramallah-based Wattan TV several times. The most most recent closure was April 2014.
Back in 2012, Israeli soldiers stormed Wattan TV’s offices and stole computers, transmitters and other broadcasting equipment.
Later that month, Israeli troops ransacked the offices of PalMedia and the Russian station RT in Ramallah, confiscating and destroying equipment.
Israel’s crackdowns on media have also been fatal at times. During Israel’s 51-day attack on Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip last summer, at least 16 press workers were killed and dozens more were injured.