Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid has called on a global press union to apologize for censuring Israel over the closure of a West Bank TV station.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) on Friday condemned Israel’s closure a day earlier of Palestine al-Yawm (Palestine Today), a station Israeli officials say is linked to the Islamic Jihad terror group and incited against Israelis.
The Brussels-based IFJ, which claims to be the largest organization of its kind, slammed what it called “the brutal attack against free press” and asked the UN for an “immediate reaction to the escalation of attacks against the press in the occupied territories.”
IFJ President Jim Boumelha said “We cannot tolerate these continuous attacks from Israeli authorities to muzzle Palestinian press. Incitement of terror is a dangerous accusation to make against a media and a decision to close it down cannot occur without due process.”
In a letter to Boumelha on Saturday, Lapid wrote: “Yesterday, after the channel was closed down members of the military wing of Islamic Jihad held a rally protesting the closure. Islamic Jihad used Palestine Today to incite against Israel and encourage others to carry out attacks. The manager of station has been convicted of being a member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The connection is so patently obvious that it calls into question your motives in condemning Israel’s actions.”
He added that “freedom of the press does not extend to terrorist propaganda and to those who incite to murder. The content on Palestine Today would not pass the editorial guidelines of any of your members. I was a journalist for over three decades; this isn’t journalism. This isn’t free speech, this is hate speech. You are not defending press freedom; you are defending incitement to murder.”
The Islamic Jihad and dozens of other Palestinian factions gathered outside the station’s offices in Gaza on Friday in a show of support, Israel’s Channel 2 television said.
“The occupation will not succeed in silencing the voice of truth,” said Daoud Shihab, an Islamic Jihad spokesman. “The Palestinian resistance and free media will continue on their path and will not fall — they will continue to expose the crimes of the occupation.”
The media outlet continued to broadcast from the Gaza Strip on Friday.
Jamil Mazhar, a representative of Islamic Jihad, called the closure a “blatant violation of the law,” and urged media outlets around the world to demonstrate against it.
“The ongoing crime against journalists and media outlets demands a united front,” another member said.
Officials from the Shin Bet security service, flanked by soldiers and representatives from the Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration, entered the Palestine al-Yawm offices in Ramallah on Thursday night and confiscated transmitters and other technical equipment, the army said.
Palestine al-Yawm’s owner, Farouk Omar Kassem Aliat, was also arrested in the raid, although it was not immediately clear on what charges. Aliat has a history of affiliation with Islamic Jihad, and was imprisoned by Israel in the past over links to the terror group.
Central Command chief Maj.-Gen. Roni Numa issued a closure order for Palestine al-Yawm “in light of the inciting broadcasts that have been heard on their radio station,” the IDF said.
“The station is a part of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad organization and constitutes an illegal association,” the army added.
The outlet broadcasts via radio, television and online “with an emphasis on social media,” the Shin Bet said in its own statement after the raid.
“The station was apparently used by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad organization as a central instrument in inciting the population of the West Bank, as it called for terror attacks to be carried out against the State of Israel and its residents,” the agency said.
A video shot by some of the station’s employees appears to show the places where equipment had been taken by IDF troops.
Israeli leaders have spoken out repeatedly about the threat of incitement in Palestinian media, while Palestinian television programs are cited repeatedly in Shin Bet interrogations of terrorists as sources of inspiration.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.