Broadcast in Hebrew, Palestinian station seeks Israeli ears

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From a bright, modern studio, the all-new Jerusalem 24 offers an unusual show for Palestinian media: it broadcasts news in Hebrew, hoping to reach an Israeli audience.

“The Israeli public listens to the media talking to them, but they don’t listen to the other side,” said Rima Mustafa, a news anchor at the station in the city of Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank.

Jerusalem 24 was launched in September with a mandate to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and in particular its impact on the lives of Palestinians.

Despite massive international diplomatic and media attention traditionally devoted to the conflict, the editor of Jerusalem 24 said the daily hardships endured by Palestinians remain undercover, especially locally.

“We want to fill the void in covering what is happening in Jerusalem and in marginalized areas,” Mai Abu Assab told AFP.

In Jerusalem, “there is ethnic cleansing and forced evictions (of Palestinians from their homes) but the world is turning a deaf ear,” she said.

– ‘Huge gap’ –

Jerusalem 24, which broadcasts on 106.1 FM and currently has an English-only website, is not the first Palestinian radio station to broadcast in Hebrew.

Radio Huna al-Quds, launched in the mid-1930s in British Mandate Palestine, also sought to meet the needs of Jews through news broadcasts in Hebrew and English, in addition to Arabic.

But since its closure following the creation of Israel in 1948, non-Arabic-speaking Israelis have had limited options for obtaining news directly from their Palestinian neighbors.

David Haliva, an Israeli personal trainer in Tel Aviv, regularly listens to Jerusalem 24.

“The Israelis don’t know about Palestinian society. Even I don’t know much. There is a huge gap between what we think we know and what is presented, ”he said.

Despite decades of conflict and acrimony, Haliva highlighted common challenges faced by Israelis and Palestinians, such as the lack of affordable housing and difficulties in obtaining building permits.

The trainer said he was impressed by the “professionalism” of the Palestinian channel’s Hebrew programming but would like to hear Palestinians reject violence more clearly.

And he said he cringes at the term “occupied” in reference to the West Bank or East Jerusalem annexed by Israel.

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Six Day War with East Jerusalem, which it later annexed in a move unrecognized by most of the international community.

– Criticize from both sides –

In keeping with its mandate to share Palestinian perspectives with the Israeli public, Jerusalem 24 criticizes both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which, according to opinion polls, has record approval ratings in the West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmud Abbas and his secular Fatah movement earlier this year faced rare street protests after the death in Palestinian custody of a prominent human rights activist, Nizar Banat.

“We criticize the Palestinian Authority and Israel but we do it in a professional manner,” said Mohammed Hamayel, one of the radio’s top journalists.

Assab, the editor, said the idea of ​​launching Jerusalem 24 began in 2015, when Jerusalem saw a series of “lone wolf” attacks carried out by Palestinians armed with knives and sometimes guns that targeted Jewish Israelis.

Its dissemination required funding from Danish civil society group Church Aid.

But with just six full-time journalists and air hours to fill, Jerusalem 24 draws on long stretches of music programming, which also appeals to Haliva in Tel Aviv.

“I love the musical variety,” he said, tapping his fingers on the steering wheel while listening to a song by British star Dua Lipa.

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