Blog Post

Ben-Gvir Orders a Palestinian Media Office in Beit Hanina to Close

On March 14, 2023, Israeli Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir signed an order banning Marcel, a private production services company in Beit Hanina inside the Jerusalem boundaries, from providing communication services to the Ramallah-based Voice of Palestine (VoP) radio station and Palestine TV, the official channels of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

The Marcel company provided the VoP and Palestine TV with a branch studio and offices inside the city boundaries, enabling them to broadcast programming within East Jerusalem, extending their reach outside Areas A, B, and C to inside Israel.

On March 20, police arrived at the Marcel offices in Beit Hanina, closed them, and arrested the manager, Amir Abbas, and six company employees: Palestinian reporters Layali Eid, Nuhad Hijazi, and Lana Kamela, photographers Yazan Haddad and Walid Kamar, and camera operator Firas Handawi, according to Arab News. Police interrogated Abbas for hours before releasing him.

The Israeli police verbally warned all five journalists, as well as Abbas, to stop their work for the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation (PBC), the parent company of the VoP, from Jerusalem, and released them without filing charges. Israel had earlier banned the PBC from operating directly in Jerusalem in November of 2019.

Ben-Gvir himself tweeted about the closure mockingly, referring (in Hebrew) to the office as an “enemy media channel” that “belongs in Syria, not Eretz Israel.”1

The PBC published a statement on the closure, which read:

[The order] will not prevent the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation from continuing to provide coverage in occupied Jerusalem—the capital of the Palestinian state. What happened proves the essence of the Israeli lie . . . that Israel is a democratic country that respects freedom of expression and freedom of the press.2

The Committee to Protect Journalists immediately issued a statement condemning these actions:

Israeli authorities must reverse their order to close the Voice of Palestine’s operations in Israel, which was issued without citing any specific problems with its coverage. Palestinian journalists should be able to do their jobs freely, without fear of being interrogated, harassed, or obstructed from doing their work.3

“Palestinian journalists should be able to do their jobs freely, without fear of being interrogated, harassed, or obstructed from doing their work.”

Committee to Protect Journalists

Reporters Without Borders likewise condemned the move harshly, saying:

The decision by the Israeli authorities to deprive the Palestinian public broadcaster of its means of broadcasting is part of a growing crackdown on the Palestinian media and amounts to indirect but very effective censorship of the Palestinian Authority’s media outlets. Furthermore, it is unacceptable to target and intimidate journalists who are just doing their job. The ban on the production company, which in practice prevents the broadcasting of Palestine TV and Voice of Palestine, must be lifted immediately.4

Even Israel’s Union of Journalists condemned the summoning of the journalists for questioning:

Interrogation of journalists is an extreme step that seriously harms the freedom of the press, the public’s right to know and journalists’ work. The Union of Journalists will make the necessary legal assistance available to the [interrogated] journalists and will consider taking legal measures.5

Israel occupied Arab East Jerusalem in 1967, an occupation which is considered illegal under international law, and unilaterally extended its jurisdiction and law over it. Previously, since 1948, East Jerusalem had been the capital of the entire West Bank under Jordanian rule and was historically an integral part of the area (see What Is Jerusalem?).

The ban of Marcel was based on a 1995 Israeli law deriving from the 1990s Oslo Accords, which prevented the PA from operating anywhere within the Israeli-declared municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. At the time, Israel used this law to shut down the East Jerusalem offices of the PBC in addition to the Palestinian Health Council and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. They did not want any Palestinian media reports coming out of Jerusalem.

Israeli authorities in recent years have applied this law as a way of criminalizing any PA involvement of any kind in Jerusalem as part of their overall effort to eliminate the possibility of Palestinians ever having national claim to the city or a part of it. This has often reached the realm of absurdity, with soccer matches, puppet shows, covid clinics, and more being shut down due to alleged PA support or involvement.

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Itamar Ben-Gvir (@itamarbengvir), “In the order I signed, we closed the Palestinian station today” [in Hebrew], Twitter, March 20, 2023, 5:02 p.m.


Josh Breiner, Sheren Falah Saab, and Nir Hasson, “Far-Right Minister Ben-Gvir Blocks Voice of Palestine TV Broadcasts in Israel,” Haaretz, March 21, 2023.


Indirect but Effective Censorship of Two Palestinian Authority Media by Israel,” Reporters Without Borders (RSF), March 23, 2023.


Breiner et al., “Far-Right Minister.”

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