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Israel's minister of culture cracks down on TV station for Palestinians

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Reprinted from Middle East Eye

Government orders TV channel closed for links to Palestinian Authority, while Israel's culture minister vows to 'censor' critics

From twitter.com/Ruthanasia/status/622447688315895808/photo/1: Israeli protest Minister of Sports and Culture Miri Regev
Israeli protest Minister of Sports and Culture Miri Regev
(image by Twitter User Densnij)
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The Israeli government has declared war on a Palestinian TV channel that launched last month from a mobile studio-truck near the city of Nazareth in Israel.

The station, which broadcasts six hours a day to Israel's 1.5 million Palestinian Arab citizens, focuses on news, arts, food and celebrities, as well as offering children's programs and quiz shows.

Despite the channel's modest budget and ambitions, however, Israel's public security minister, Gilad Erdan, ordered its closure last week, describing its operations as a "breach of Israel's sovereignty."

The satellite channel -- called Palestine '48 -- is the first to serve Israel's Palestinian minority that is funded by the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas' government-in-waiting in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli officials have claimed that the channel is being used by the PA to "gain a foothold" in Israel to promote misinformation and incitement.

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But critics say the crackdown on the station is part of a much wider assault being led by the new culture minister, Miri Regev, on the cultural life of Palestinians in Israel, who make up a fifth of the population.

Ahmed Tibi, a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament, recently told the news website Ynet: "Regev acts towards Arab artists as Israeli policemen act towards the Arab protester -- as an enemy that must be eliminated."

Connecting to Arab world

The launch of Palestine '48 has generated special excitement, according to Makbula Nassar, a presenter with the commercial station Radio Ashams in Nazareth, because Israel's Palestinian minority has lacked the resources to develop its own vigorous media.

"It has been like a prison here in terms of the media," she told Middle East Eye. "For a long time we had access to few sources of information apart from those provided by the state, which totally ignored the needs of our community.

"Now there is at least the hope that we can develop a TV station that offers new ideas and perspectives free of Israeli propaganda. We are part of the Arab world and we have to break free of our isolation and connect to it."

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The PA's communications minister, Riad Hassan, stated that the channel's goal was to offer a platform for Israel's Palestinian minority to "expose to the Arab world everything they must go through, regarding their social, cultural and economic difficulties."

Yet Netanyahu, who is communications minister in addition to being prime minister, appears to have other ideas.

He ordered officials to find a way to close the new channel after its launch last month was timed to coincide with the holy month of Ramadan, when TV viewing figures are high across the Arab world.

Last week Erdan accused the PA of violating the 1994 Oslo accords, claiming that a clause forbids Palestinian funding of activities on Israeli soil.

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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)

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