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Palestinian media, public turn to Israeli press for news

Palestinian media outlets mine Israeli media sources for material to translate and present to their Palestinian readers, often using it to bolster their position and stick it to their political opponents.
Palestinians walk past local newspapers, which feature the Israeli election on their front pages, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, March 18, 2015. As the dust settles on a dramatic election, the immediate questions are how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu managed to stage such a fierce comeback, why the opposition fell short and what it means for Israel, the Palestinians and the world. While the election results may come down to the shuffling of allegiances within major blocs, the repercussions a

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Almost every Palestinian media outlet — print, radio, television and online — dedicates space to translations from Israeli media sources. Some have regular columns or programs featuring topics discussed in the Israeli press, mostly related to Palestinian affairs. Translated opinion pieces by Israeli writers are also offered as well as domestic Israeli news.

When it comes to security incidents between Gaza and Israel, as well as the West Bank and Israel, Gazans follow Israeli media stories like breaking news. They also track news and statements issued by Israeli security officials and Israeli press reports about Palestinian officials.

Wissam Afifa, editor-in-chief of Hamas’ Al-Resalah, a biweekly newspaper in Gaza, said, “There is a great deal of interest [among Palestinians] in the sections of Israeli media translations. This is one of the most important sections in newspapers. Palestinians religiously follow it.”

Afifa told Al-Monitor, “We always like to publish news from Israeli media to show Palestinians the weak spots in Israeli society and strengthen the internal Palestinian front. This is important regarding security-related news.”

Afifa said, “The Palestinian political division is clearly reflected through Palestinian media outlets, which exploit news issued by Israeli media against their adversaries and widely publish this news in the Palestinian press.” For instance, media affiliated with or close to Hamas will highlight news potentially damaging or embarrassing to its rivals, like Fatah or the Palestinian Authority (PA) and vice versa, especially if it involves charges of corruption and communications with Israel.

Typically, Israeli reports disclosing information provided by Israeli intelligence sources draw different conclusions and have perspectives different from those relayed by Palestinian media. Take for example the Aug. 19 abduction of four Palestinians in the Sinai Peninsula. While Palestinian outlets reported that unidentified gunmen stormed the bus and took the four men, the Israeli news website Walla reported Aug. 20, “Egyptian intelligence abducted four Hamas naval commandos on their way to Iran.” This additional information about the abduction was neither confirmed nor denied by the Palestinian sources.

Ismail Muhra, who researches Israeli affairs, said the Palestinian media’s translations from the Israeli press are primary sources for local news websites. He told Al-Monitor, “The news is usually quickly transmitted as a Palestinian scoop if it reveals a piece of security information or leaks about Hamas, the PA or Palestinian figures. The news is also published without editing or revision.”

He added, “It seems Palestinian officials prefer to leak news to the Israeli media outlets and journalists instead of relying on Palestinian media, for political reasons or because [the officials] do not trust the Palestinian media. This sometimes prompts Palestinian media outlets to get their news from the Israelis.”

In December 2012 in the Gaza Strip, Hamas banned dealing with the Israeli press and prevented journalists from Gaza from working with Israeli media outlets. It also banned officials in Gaza from giving statements to Israeli media.

Gazans are interested in Israeli news reports because the security and political situations in Gaza are significantly affected by Israeli decisions and the domestic situation in Israel. Although figures are not available, the number of Palestinians who speak Hebrew has declined since the second Palestinian intifada, which began in 2000. With the uprising, the number of Palestinians allowed to work in Israel fell dramatically. Also, after Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, Palestinians there were further restricted entry. Large numbers of Palestinians therefore must rely on the Palestinian media for translations of Israeli news.

In February 2013, the Ministry of Education in Gaza decided to teach Hebrew in middle schools and eventually include advanced classes. In addition, some language centers began offering it as well.

Most Palestinian media outlets are affiliated with political factions. Over the years, the various factions have established newspapers, TV channels and radio stations as well as websites to publish news to bolster support for them and present their perspectives. Moreover, most of their journalists are young and lack proper journalistic training and experience. 

Mustafa Ibrahim, a Palestinian writer, said that the Israeli media has a higher degree of credibility among Palestinians, because it enjoys more freedom and access than the Palestinian press.

“Palestinian journalists have limited access to information, while the Israeli press accesses information more broadly. There is better media organization in Israel, and there are many [Israeli] critics of Israeli policy, unlike in the Palestinian press [which does not criticize Palestinian policies]. This reinforces the Palestinians’ trust in the Israeli press,” Ibrahim told Al-Monitor. “The ease with which the Palestinian media outlets can translate news from the Israeli media leads most Palestinian sites to dedicate large sections to Israeli sources. This reflects the weakness of Palestinian media and local Palestinian journalists’ failure to produce newsworthy material.”

The reasons behind the weaknesses within Palestinian media are varied. These include precarious financial situations and lack of professional journalism experience, Palestinian officials’ dereliction in dealing with the Palestinian media, the fledgling state of Palestinian journalism and media ties to political parties. In general, readers' interest in news and reports from the Israeli media can be explained in that Palestinians simply want information that can help them understand the reality surrounding them, regardless of its origin.

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