The biggest victims of the peace talks, it turns out, are not the Israelis, not even those hardier, more spirited Israelis living east of the green line. Without a doubt, the ones who stand to lose the most from the creation of a Palestinian state are the Arabs who live there.
I wrote in the past about the sharp decline in the quality of life in the Arab parts of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, after the signing of the Oslo accords, back in 1993.
The Oslo Accords were a terrible idea. They were not at all an honest attempt to establish long-lasting peace between Arabs and Jews. Instead, they schemed to keep the Arabs under the control of a team of outside gangsters, paid by Israel.
In Oslo, Israel inflicted on the Arabs a permanent policy of Divide and Conquer, sentencing them to a slow and debilitating decline. So far, unfortunately, the Israeli plan has been working. One half of the Palestinians have been reduced to poverty. All of them are living in constant fear of violence, without the most elementary rights which you and I take for granted.
On Thursday, a group of Arab journalists joined a sit-in strike near Ramallah protesting a decision by the Hamas government in Gaza to close media offices of Ma’an Network, Al Arabiya and others.
Earlier this year and last year, those same journalists protested the heavy handed manner in which the Palestinian Authority was dealing with unflattering reports on Facebook – interrogating and throwing the authors to jail. A Human Rights Watch report issued in 2011 said Palestinian journalists are being subjected to detention and abuse at the hands of Palestinian security agencies, “a pattern that has led many to self-censor and produced a chilling effect on the free exchange of information and ideas.”
In the seven “West Bank” cases examined in some depth in the report, HRW said the “harassment and abuse of journalists reflected attempts to prevent free speech and inquiry into matters of public importance, and to punish writers solely because of their statements critical of the Palestinian Authority or their perceived support of its political rivals.”
But this time around it was all about Hamas, and the protesters included Palestinian politicians and dignitaries–who, no doubt will some day intimidate and brutalize those very protesters. For now, though, they urged the Hamas government to reopen all the media offices it closed, and to end a ban on the entry of three major Palestinian newspapers into Gaza.
The protest was organized and called by the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, the main press union in Palestine.
Back in 2004, the Palestine Journalists Syndicate (PJS) announced a ban on journalists who dared to report on disputes between Palestinians. On July 20, 2004, the PJS threatened that journalists would face “penalties” if they “dealt with or carried statements or publications dealing with internal events and inclined to slander, libel or harm others.”
Not in Gaza, mind you, in Ramallah, and not Hamas – back then the PLO still ruled in Gaza.
Obviously, there’s only one place where those frisky reporters are permitted to roam around freely and report whatever they wish, with cordial and professional assistance from the authorities. You guessed it – in Israel, that apartheid state they so love to revile.
Head of the journalists syndicate Abdul-Nasser Najjar addressed the protesters and expressed astonishment over the ongoing assaults against journalists in Gaza.
“We were surprised as Hamas continued with assaults against Palestinian media organizations, shutting down offices of Ma’an News Network and some other media offices. This is part of an ongoing practice,” Najjar said. He highlighted that “since Hamas staged its coup in Gaza, the main three Palestinian daily newspapers were banned in the Gaza Strip.”
But, you know, only a year ago, in July 2012, Abdel Nasser Najjar called for boycotting a meeting between Israeli President Shimon Peres and Arab journalists. Najjar, an old PLO hand, warned that punitive measures would be taken against journalists who attended the meeting in Jerusalem.
It must be embarrassing, if not outright infuriating, for a journalist who spends half his day working like a serious professional in a Western democracy, vilifying Jews and whatnot, and then, at night, crossing over to the Heart of Darkness that is the Palestinian-run areas.
Here’s how it should work, according to Abdel Nasser Najjar: “If any media outlet publishes false news, there is the judiciary and the union’s committee of ethics to question that outlet and hold it accountable. However, if media outlets are closed because their editorial policy conflicts with political parties, that is very dangerous. So far, all Hamas’ claims are unacceptable as all they claim is false news.”
In other words, in the liberal PA, all they do to a journalist who published lies about the government is haul him or her to jail and beat a confession out of them – but you don’t close down their outfit of such things.
What constitutes “false reports” according to Chairman Nazzar? In the past, the PJS said the media should not report on, photograph or film armed demonstrations and stressed the need to “publish and cover all activities that support national unity and protect the internal front.”
Ma’an Network chairwoman Nibal Thawabta also addressed the protesters to remind them that violations against Palestinian media were ongoing. International watchdog reports, she added, prove that freedom of the press and public freedom in Palestine is on the decline.
She said that Palestinian journalists, press organizations, unions, and academic institutions in Palestine were united against restrictions on freedom of expression and the policy of “muzzling.”
“As journalists, we seek to exert every possible effort to enhance freedoms through sit-ins and other activities. We call upon all political parties to leave Palestinian media alone so they can practice their duties as the fourth branch (of government).”
And, goes without saying, do most of your work in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.
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