Destruction caused during Israel’s raid of the offices of Palestine TV in Jerusalem, November 2019


JS Committee Twitter, via Middle East Monitor

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Perspective: Israel’s War on Independent Palestinian Media Goes Back Decades

Israel’s recent closure of the offices of the Palestinian media company Marcel in Beit Hanina follows a decades-old Israeli strategy that aims at negating every form of Palestinian national representation and symbols of a democratic society. For Israelis, as Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s finance minister, recently claimed, “there is no such thing as Palestinians, because there is no such thing as the Palestinian people,”1 and therefore they have no national rights, whether that be the right to self-determination, political rights, the right to raise a flag, the right to paint in with the colors of the Palestinian flag or wear clothing in them, or the right to freedom of expression, with a national media corps and professional journalists.

Israel apparently has no problem with individual Palestinians working for international media, whether it is the BBC or even the Qatari Al Jazeera. But having a national radio and TV station is prohibited and is fought tooth and nail, especially in Jerusalem, where the presence of such a voice could suggest a competing claim to sovereignty over the city. On January 20, 2002, in a campaign aimed at ending the Second Intifada, Israel bombed the Voice of Palestine (VoP) radio broadcasting tower in Ramallah, which had been inaugurated in 1936 during the days of the British Mandate, as well as the offices and studios of Palestine TV.2

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

A Palestinian media office that helped the PA extend its radio and TV broadcasting into East Jerusalem is shuttered by Israel.

Recollections of a Veteran

My firsthand experience with the Israeli attitudes to Palestinian media began decades ago in the 1980s, when I was working for the Jerusalem-based Palestinian newspaper al-Fajr. Having returned home to Jerusalem from the United States, I was shocked to learn about Israeli military censorship policies, which applied largely to the Palestinian press3 and to a lesser degree (mostly during intensive war situations) to the foreign and even the Israeli press. For the Palestinian press, we were ordered to show galleys of everything we were planning to publish and would get either approval, rejection, partial rejection, or delay. At times, Israeli censors would only change words, for example changing “martyrs” to “terrorists,” and numbers of injured Palestinians; at other times entire articles, even poems, and certainly some cartoons were totally banned.

A front page of the Jerusalem-based al-Fajr English newspaper from 1985

A front page of the Jerusalem-based al-Fajr English newspaper from the year 1985. The author was the managing editor of the paper.

We were not allowed to leave any empty space in the place of an article that had been slated to appear, say, on the front page, forcing us in the late midnight hours to scramble and find some other suitable copy to fill the space emptied by the Israelis.

In the 1990s and as a result of the First Intifada, I remember working with my colleague George Khleifi to set up the Jerusalem Film Institute, where we invited Palestinian filmmakers to be present as their works were screened for the first time to Palestinian audiences. I clearly remember speaking at a side event of our Jerusalem Nights festival in 1992 and telling fellow creative colleagues that we should be ready to have our own radio and TV stations, because one day we would be able to get a permit, only to discover that we have the license for a Palestinian national media outlet but no trained personnel with the requisite skills to staff it.

This idea was turned into a workshop a year later in June 1993, when Sari Nusseibeh asked Nabhann Khreisheh and me to head a media committee as part of the Palestinian technical committees. We were allowed some limited resources thanks to a grant from Sweden, and so we decided to stage a mock Palestinian TV evening news.

For two weeks, we trained journalists in TV skills, and on the last day, we presented exactly at 6 p.m. at the el-Hakawati National Theatre the Palestinian nightly news with jingles, news, reports, live studio interviews, and even sports and weather. The program was called Experimental Television News. At the time, interviewed about it by the New York Times, I said, “We’re sick and tired of being the object of the news. We want to design our own narrative, our own news in our own words.”4

Palestine TV and VoP radio were born as part of the Oslo Accords. The justification at the time was that Palestinians could not have elections for their legislative council without having a radio and TV station.

Bio Sari Nusseibeh

An academic and political maverick who participated in the First Intifada and the Madrid Conference, held the Jerusalem portfolio, and led Al-Quds University

The justification at the time was that Palestinians could not have elections for their legislative council without having a radio and TV station.

To his credit, Yasser Abed Rabbo, who served as Minister of Culture and Arts in the PA cabinet between 1994 and 2004, afterward allowed local radio and TV stations to pop up all over the occupied territories, and it was those stations that sprang into action in 2002 when Israel blew up VoP broadcast towers and the Palestine TV studios. According to CNN, reporting at the time, “Eyewitnesses said the Israelis put dynamite in the studios and gasoline on the roof, where the transmitters were.”5 Those local community-based stations became the backup to the destroyed media outlets until the Palestinian government was able to reestablish them.

Despite becoming a major media operation, Israel continued to refuse recognition of Palestinian media. While Palestinian journalists were allowed to get press cards for Jerusalem-based licensed media like al-Quds and al-Fajr, no Palestinian media outlet in the rest of the occupied territories was recognized. Israel’s government press office did issue press cards to Palestinians working for international media like BBC, CNN, Reuters, and even Al Jazeera, but those working for the Ramallah-based al-Ayyam daily, al-Hayyat al-Jadida, Palestine TV, and the VoP were not recognized as being bona fide journalists.

Palestinian media from outside of Jerusalem was not allowed to operate or even open an office inside the city boundaries. The Palestine TV office and studio in Jerusalem were repeatedly shut down, even when they worked with local private production companies.6 Journalists from Jerusalem who worked for Palestine TV were often harassed and called in for questioning by consecutive Israeli administrations.

International media and press institutions gave some attention to this problem, but they did not pursue this issue strategically. Efforts to get the Israeli Journalists Union to support the Palestinian journalists never succeeded, even though there was a lot of private cooperation and exchange of information between individual journalists.

A rally of Palestinian journalists in Ramallah against the closure of the Palestinian TV office Jerusalem, November 21, 2019

A rally organized at the offices of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) in Ramallah by the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS) against Israel’s decision to close down the offices of Palestinian TV in Jerusalem, November 21, 2019


Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate

When on May 15, 2021, Israel blew up a tower building in Gaza where major international media outlets had made their offices,7 a delegation of the International Press Institute was sent to Gaza, Tel Aviv, Ramallah, and Jerusalem to investigate. I was part of the team, and we wrote a long and detailed report in which we highlighted the fact that Israel has never recognized Palestinian media outside of Jerusalem. The report also talked about the major problems facing journalists traveling to locations where there was a confrontation or other newsworthy events. Without a press card, a Palestinian journalist is as liable to be harassed and their movement prevented as any other journalist.

While the case of Shireen Abu Akleh received wide attention, her death was far from the first for Palestinian journalists. For example, a friend, Nazeh Darwazeh, who worked with me on the documentary Palestinian Diaries in Nablus, was shot dead by Israeli soldiers in 2003 as he was working for the Associated Press TV.8 Many others have been killed, injured, and detained for their journalistic work.9 The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, and the Vienna-based International Press Institute have continued to observe and report on problems facing Palestinian journalists and media, but for the most part, their reporting has done little to change the paradigm in which Israel has and continues to negate the very existence of Palestinian media. The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedom (MADA) and the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate websites have running statistics of violations of Palestinian media.

Feature Story Revered Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh Is Laid to Rest as Evidence Mounts of a Targeted Killing

From symbol to legend: The life, untimely and violent death, and historic burial of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh

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Committee to Protect Journalists, “Israel Destroys Palestinian Radio and Television Building,” The Electronic Intifada, January 21, 2002.


Robert I. Friedman, “Israeli Censorship of the Palestinian Press,” Journal of Palestine Studies 13, no. 1 (1983): 93–101.


Joel Greenberg, “Jerusalem Journal; Lights! Camera! News! Palestine TV Is on the Air,” New York Times, July 20, 1993.


“Israeli Army Blows Up Palestinian Broadcasting Center.” This was not the first time Israel had taken such drastic measures. A few selected incidents: In October 2000, Israeli forces attacked transmission towers and other technical facilities used by the VoP in Ramallah. A month later, in November 2000, Israeli helicopters bombed the offices of Palestine TV in Gaza. On December 13, 2001, Israeli missiles destroyed a VoP broadcasting building in Ramallah from the air and later sent bulldozers in to flatten the building. A complete historical chronology of such attacks is beyond the scope of this blog post.


Al Jazeera Staff, “‘Give Us 10 Minutes’: How Israel Bombed a Gaza Media Tower,” Al Jazeera, May 15, 2021.


Mohammed Daraghmeh, “APTN Cameraman Is Killed in Nablus,” Midland Daily News, April 18, 2003,

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