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New Palestinian radio station seeks Israeli ears with its Hebrew broadcasts

The Ramallah-based Jerusalem 24 station says it criticizes both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, ‘but we do it professionally’

Employees work at the newly launched Jerusalem 24 radio station in Ramallah on October 7, 2021. (Abbas Momani / AFP)
Employees work at the newly launched Jerusalem 24 radio station in Ramallah on October 7, 2021. (Abbas Momani / AFP)

AFP — From a bright, modern studio, the newly launched Jerusalem 24 offers an unusual broadcast for Palestinian media: it delivers the news in Hebrew, hoping to reach an Israeli audience.

“The Israeli public listens to the media that speaks to them, but they don’t listen to the other side,” said Rima Mustafa, newscaster at the station in Ramallah.

Jerusalem 24 launched in September with a mandate to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and in particular its impact on Palestinian lives.

Despite massive international diplomatic and media attention traditionally devoted to the conflict, Jerusalem 24’s chief editor claims that the day-to-day hardships endured by Palestinians remain under-covered, especially locally.

“We want to fill the void in coverage on what is happening in Jerusalem and in marginalized areas,” Mai Abu Assab told AFP. In Jerusalem, “there is ethnic cleansing and forced expulsions [of Palestinians from their homes] but the world is turning a deaf ear,” she asserted.

Jerusalem 24, which transmits on 106.1 FM and has an English-only website for now, is not the first Palestinian radio to broadcast in Hebrew.

Editor-in-chief Mai Abu Assab is pictured during an interview at the newly launched Jerusalem 24 radio station in Ramallah on October 7, 2021. (Abbas Momani / AFP)

Radio Huna al-Quds, launched in the mid-1930s in British-mandated Palestine, also sought to cater to Jews through Hebrew and English news broadcasts, in addition to Arabic. But since its closure following Israel’s creation in 1948, Israelis who do not speak Arabic have limited options to get news directly from their Palestinian neighbors.

David Haliva, an Israeli personal trainer in Tel Aviv, regularly tunes in to Jerusalem 24.

“Israelis don’t know about Palestinian society. Even I don’t know much. There is a huge gap between what we think we know and what is presented,” he said.

Despite decades of conflict and acrimony, Haliva highlighted common challenges faced by Israelis and Palestinians, like a lack of affordable housing and difficulties in getting building permits.

The trainer said he was impressed by the “professionalism” of the Palestinian channel’s Hebrew broadcasts but would like to hear the Palestinians more clearly rejecting violence. And he said he cringes at the term “occupied” in reference to the West Bank or East Jerusalem.

In keeping with its mandate to share Palestinian perspectives with the Israeli public, Jerusalem 24 criticizes both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which according to opinion polls is suffering record-low approval ratings in the West Bank.

David Haliva, an Israeli personal trainer, regularly tunes in to Jerusalem 24 radio station, which is the only Palestinian media outlet that offers news in Hebrew, in Tel Aviv on October 20, 2021. (Ahmad Gharabli / AFP)

The PA led by President Mahmoud Abbas and his secular Fatah movement faced rare street protests earlier this year following the death in Palestinian custody of a prominent rights activist, Nizar Banat.

“We criticize the PA and Israel but we do it professionally,” said Mohammed Hamayel, one of the radio’s top journalists.

Assab, the chief editor, said the idea to launch Jerusalem 24 began in 2015, when Jerusalem saw a series of “lone wolf” attacks carried out by Palestinians armed with knives and occasionally guns who targeted Jewish Israelis.

Getting it on air required funding from the Danish civil society group Church Aid.

But with just six full-time journalists and hours of air time to fill, Jerusalem 24 relies on long stretches of musical programming, which also appeals to Haliva in Tel Aviv.

“I like the musical variety,” he said, tapping his fingers on his steering wheel as he listened to a song by British star Dua Lipa.

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