Israel bars Palestinian-funded TV channel from operating

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan says network not allowed to broadcast anywhere within Israel for 6 months

Minister of Public Security, Gilad Erdan, May 18, 2015 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Minister of Public Security, Gilad Erdan, May 18, 2015 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An Israeli cabinet minister signed an order Thursday barring a Palestinian TV channel geared toward Israel’s Arab citizens from operating inside the Jewish state for the next six months.

In the order, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said F48 — or Palestine 48 — television was not authorized for broadcasting in Israel. The channel, which is funded by the Palestinian Authority, was launched in the predominantly Arab Israeli city of Nazareth last month.

The station’s name refers to 1948, the year Israel was established and which Palestinians mark as their national catastrophe, or “Nakba” in Arabic.

Erdan said he won’t allow “Israel’s sovereignty to be harmed” or for the Palestinian Authority to gain a “foothold” in the country. He said the channel will be prevented from operating “anywhere within the state of Israel” for six months.

Riad Hassan, the head of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, called the decision “illegal.” He said it would affect Israeli production companies that produce two programs for the channel in Nazareth, and warned that the companies would challenge the decision in Israel’s Supreme Court.

The press conference announcing the launch of Arab-speaking station, Palestine 48, in Nazareth on Wednesday, June 17 2015. (Screen capture: Ynet)
Press conference announcing the launch of the Arab-language station, Palestine 48, in Nazareth on June 17 2015. (screen capture: Ynet)

The satellite channel produces the remainder of its programs in Ramallah, in the West Bank, and will continue broadcasting its other shows from there.

Last month, hours after a news conference inaugurated Palestine 48’s launch in Nazareth, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the head of the Communications Ministry to work on shuttering the station. Netanyahu urged ministry staffers to investigate the channel’s legality, particularly on issues relating to funding received by the Palestinian Authority.

During the channel’s inauguration conference, Hassan said Netanyahu and “his extremist right-wing government” couldn’t shut Palestine 48 down, and that the channel would “also give a stage to the other side, to right-wing people and ministers from the government.”

Hassan said the station’s goal was “to give a stage to the Arabs of ’48 so that they can expose to the Arab world everything they must go through, regarding their social, cultural and economic difficulties.” Hassan stated that while the Palestinian Authority intended to support the station, the channel “has no intention of violating Israel’s rule of law.”

Hassan said that talk of establishing the channel began more than a year ago and that the plan received the blessing of Arab members of Knesset, writers and media personalities. The station aims to focus its broadcasts on the lives of Arabs living inside Israel proper and would offer content produced in the Galilee, the Negev and the Triangle, an area in northern Israel home to a sizable Arab population.

Sanaa Hamud, a member of a panel that counsels the channel, said the establishment of the station was a watershed moment in the history of Israel’s Arab population.

“For the first time in 67 years we will have television speaking our language, in more ways than one, enabling dialogue and discussions on the issues close to our heart and allowing us to make our voice heard by the entire world,” she said.

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