George Orwell once said ‘if liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear’. For the last few decades Israel has been marketing itself as a beacon of democracy and free speech in the Middle East. This myth was shattered when the world started to realize the reality of the occupation and that Israel is nothing but an apartheid state and the most brutal remaining occupation in modern history.
The attack on Palestine Today TV marks another chapter in the policies of annihilation that the Israeli army has been inflicting on Palestinians since 1948. On Friday 11 March 2016 the Israeli army invaded the offices of the channel in Ramallah (West Bank), ransacked its equipment and arrested its director along with two other journalists, a cameraman and a sound technician. It also shut down Transmedia -a media company providing the service for the Palestine Today channel.
The Israeli cabinet’s desperate decision to attack Palestinian media is another symptom of the Israeli government’s failure to thwart the social protests that have been on the increase for the last five months. These protests have been the result of years of incarceration and colossal injustices.
Recently, the Palestinians living under Israeli rule have become increasingly worried about the education system which their children have been forced to become a part of, by the Israeli Education Ministry. This apprehension has increased particularly because the Education Ministry is now controlled by the far-right settler party ‘Jewish Home’, led by Naftali Bennett. The Ministry has been accused of emphasizing only Israel’s Jewish character. Israeli textbooks systematically ‘dehumanize the Palestinians and represent them as immigrants in their own country’ argue many critics.
However, prior to this event, the occupation army followed a systematic policy of harassment which included imprisonment, torture and threats towards Palestinian journalists. On the 3rd of November 2015,Israeli soldiers also broke into the headquarters of Al Hurriyya Media Network, destroying the offices, confiscating tools and threatening to demolish the entire building of the network, accusing it of ‘inciting’ Palestinians against the Israeli occupation (Palestine News Network). During the same week a series of attacks were also made on Wattan TV, Rabia radio, and Palestinian News network (PNN).
This war, thought by some to be abating, has been all the more on the increase. During recent weeks the hostilities declared on Palestinian media have become even more aggressive. So far, the Israel occupation army has detained over 18 journalists from various media institutions. The most well-known case is that of Mohammad Al Qeq who was arrested on the 21st of November 2015. In protest at the brutal injustices he went on hunger-strike on the 24th of November 2015. Later on his health deteriorated and he was moved to Israeli Ha Emek hospital and was denied removal to Ramallah hospitals. Recently, another journalist, Mojahedal Sadi from Jenin was arrested before and is still in prison. Al Aqsa channel has its signal stopped on Utelsat ostensibly for ‘inciting hatred’. These attacks have been denounced from within and outside the occupied territories. Reasons for the arrests have been refuted as groundless. In the words of Hanan Ashrawi, a prominent member of PLO,“Incursions into areas under the Palestinian Authority’s control, and attacking its sovereignty and media institution are a stark violation of basic human rights and international and humanitarian laws that have safeguarded freedom of speech”.
Worth noting however is that having a medium that managed to reach out to international public opinion seems to have angered the Israeli government and ‘stripped it from its mask and exposed the truth of its deliberate crimes against the Palestinian people’ argues Monjed Jado (editor in Chief for Palestine News Network (PNN)).
For those who still think that Israel is the most democratic country in the Middle East,they should understand that this is an insult to democracy itself and the value of free speech.
What has been happening in the occupied territories is yet another crime to be added to the list of assaults on Palestinian people. It is also another attempt by the Israelis to silence the voice of those who expose the systematic destruction of Palestinian lives and properties. Like the building of the separation wall, the attempt to silence Palestinian media will just add to the moral bankruptcy of the Israeli occupation.
One may further understand this as possibly another step before the declaration of war… a preamble to another war on Gaza, at a time when the Arab world is in the worst condition it has ever been during its modern history. On Saturday 12 March Israeli air force launched an attack on Gaza killing a Palestinian boy (Yasin Abu Khusa) and his sister. The strikes came with no warning nor did they have a reason, except perhaps they were intended to be a provocation. What is sure is that the Israeli army does not think it needs a specific reason to kill and annihilate any random Palestinians so long as they in general oppose the occupation and as long as Israel enjoys full Western backing.
The writer is Professor of Media and Communication. He can be reached via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was first published by thepeninsulaqatar.com on March 17 2016.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.