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{Reposted from the Gatestone Institute website}

At a time when Arab journalists from the Gulf are visiting Israel and saying that they are looking forward to working with their Israeli colleagues, Palestinians are continuing to incite hatred against the Israeli media and threaten Israeli journalists.

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While the Arabs in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are working toward normalizing their relations with Israel, the Palestinians are continuing to threaten anyone who wants to make peace with Israelis.

The Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PIJ), a group dominated by loyalists of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, is furious because two Israeli (Jewish) correspondents visited the Palestinian cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem, where they spoke with local businessmen.

The Israeli television correspondents, as part of a news item on the buzzing nightlife of Ramallah and Bethlehem, interviewed the owners of restaurants, hotels and coffee shops.

The report showed that despite the lockdowns and restrictions imposed by the Palestinian government to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the Palestinian economy continues to thrive.

The PIJ describes itself as a “non-governmental professional organization with a pluralistic and independent character representing all Palestinian journalists inside Palestine and abroad.”

The PIJ, however, contradicts itself by stating that it “adheres to the policies of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.” It is important to note that Hamas and other Palestinian factions do not recognize the PLO as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.” This means that the PIJ refuses to represent journalists who are not affiliated with the PLO.

Yet, while the PIJ is boasting of its “professionalism” and “independence,” it never conceals the fact that its declared policy is to oppose all forms of normalization with Israel, especially in the media. As such, the PIJ says, it has banned Palestinian journalists from engaging in normalization activities with Israelis “inside and outside the country.”

The Palestinian journalists’ group is angry not only because two Israeli reporters visited Ramallah. It is upset because the reporters dared to reveal an inconvenient truth: that Palestinians are enjoying themselves and that, despite the outbreak of the coronavirus, the economy in Ramallah is doing well.

This truth goes against the Palestinian leadership’s official and long-standing propaganda line: that the Palestinians are “suffering” as a result of the bad economy and therefore the world needs to continue providing them with hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

Worse, the Palestinian journalists’ group is also inciting harm against the Israeli reporters in a manner that endangers their lives. Here is what the PIJ said in a statement:

“The Zionist Channel broadcast a report on the reality of nightlife in Ramallah and Bethlehem. The report was prepared by two correspondents known for their absolute hostility to the Palestinian people and the [Palestinian] national cause. The reporters are known for lying, fabricating and distorting the facts.”

The PIJ, however, does not disclose the contents of the alleged “lies and fabrications.“. All it does is defame the two reporters, apparently only because they are Israeli Jews. The PIJ goes on to accuse the reporters of “entering the Palestinian territories as occupiers, most often under the protection of the occupation army.” This is a false and dangerous accusation: Israeli journalists who cover Palestinian affairs do not visit Palestinian cities while they are escorted by Israeli soldiers.

By claiming that Israeli journalists enter Palestinian cities under the protection of the Israeli army, the Palestinian journalists’ group is actually telling Palestinians that there is no difference between an Israeli journalist and soldier. This, in other words, is a direct call to Palestinians to target Israeli reporters once they see them inside a Palestinian city.

The PIJ is also threatening Palestinians who deal with or talk to Israeli reporters:

“Any dealing or holding meetings with the occupation media, and providing them with any assistance during their entry into the Palestinian territories, is a crime of normalization that is rejected, and that the owners of restaurants, cafes and hotels who appeared in the aforementioned report are guilty of the crime of normalization.”

The Palestinian journalists’ group is actually saying that the Palestinian businessmen who talked to the Israeli correspondents are traitors because they engaged in a form of normalization with the enemy. According to the logic of the Palestinian journalists, the businessmen are also traitors because they revealed that the Palestinian economy is not as bad as Palestinian leaders claim and the restaurants and coffee shops are full of people enjoying themselves.

One can only wonder whether the Palestinian businessmen who appeared on Israeli television will suffer injury or death for ostensible collaboration with the Israeli enemy and presenting a picture that contradicts the false narrative of the Palestinian leadership.

This is hardly the first time that the Palestinians have threatened or incited violence against Israeli journalists. Earlier this year, Abbas’s Fatah faction, in an unprecedented move, published the names and photos of three Israeli journalists, accusing them of “incitement” against the PA leadership. Fatah described the three journalists as “Israeli war generals masquerading as media people.”

This type of incitement is tantamount to a direct call to Palestinians to harm the Israeli journalists on the pretext that they are part of the Israeli security establishment. As far as the Palestinian leadership and its journalist group are concerned, any reporter who does not toe the official Palestinian propaganda line or who dares to criticize Palestinian leaders is “guilty of incitement” and should therefore be boycotted or punished. The only journalists the Palestinian leadership tolerates are those who do not question its policies and decisions and who do not ask embarrassing questions.

By threatening the Israeli reporters, the Palestinians are also sending a warning to Western correspondents who cover Palestinian affairs: Either you endorse our positions and parrot our anti-Israeli propaganda, or you are not welcome and we will incite violence against you.

The PIJ is an affiliate of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), a global federation of journalists’ trade unions — the largest in the world. The IFJ, which represents more than 600,000 media workers from 187 organizations in 146 countries, states that it “fights for the improvement of journalists’ working conditions and rights, including freedom of expression.” It also states that its goal is to promote international action to defend press freedom and social justice.

As the Palestinians are affiliated with this international Federation, the question is: will the IFJ call out the Palestinian journalists for inciting violence against and endangering the lives of Israeli media representatives?

Furthermore: Will the IFJ condemn the Palestinians for threatening Israeli journalists on a regular basis? It would be a miracle if that happened. International organizations rarely see any evil on the Palestinian side. The only culprit, for them, is Israel. The silence of the IFJ and other international media organizations and human rights groups is nothing short of a green light to Palestinians to physically attack the next Israeli reporter they see on the streets of Bethlehem or Ramallah.

 

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Bassam Tawil is a scholar based in the Middle East. This article originally appeared on the Gatestone Institute website (gatestoneinstitute.org).