Ramallah's English-language daily sets it sights on the Israeli market

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March 18, 2007 01:49
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As Palestinians attempted to turn over a new page with the formation of their new government Saturday, editors at the only English-language Palestinian daily hoped readers would do the same. The Palestine Times, a recently created 12-page daily was set to begin distribution across Israel on Sunday, following an agreement with the Bar Group company, which also delivers Yediot Aharonot and Globes. The goal of The Palestine Times is to show the "real image of Palestinians," said Founder and Editor-In-Chief Othman Haj Mohammed. "My message is simple. I want to show our readers an image of Palestinians as a real, human society with all its needs. With its stories of failure and success, its sad moments and its happy moments," said Haj Mohammed. "The Palestinians are not only about Fatah and Hamas. They are about culture, arts, social issues and about helping the environment." Israelis said they were curious to see Sunday's issue, especially since after the formation of the Palestinian Authority unity government. "I am really curious to see what they have to say, not just what we say about them," said Moti Mizrachi, a newspaper stand owner in Jerusalem. "Now that they have this new government, for instance, I think it will be really good for us to see what they write about their own government, instead of what Knesset member so and so says about their government." Mizrachi said the newspaper may have trouble reaching the "average Israeli" since it is in English. "Most Israelis don't really have the energy for that... usually only the academics, the [university] students read in English, and those people already know more about what goes on with the Palestinians," said Mizrachi. Othman said that he felt it was important for Israelis to read his paper because it would provide them with a "first-hand view." "We are trying to show the Israelis that we are human beings. All of the emphasis is on the political scene and fighting," said Othman. The Palestine Times published its first edition in November. Since then, its staff has grown from 50 to 75, with reporters across the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The paper includes sections on business, food, sports, health and the environment, in addition to the news and opinion pieces. The paper does not yet publish its own editorials, said Othman, because it is "too early to take a line." Othman said that at the moment he saw the paper as a "very moderate liberal newspaper." "We are about being an independent Palestinian newspaper now," said Othman. "We are not obliged to anyone. Our bias, if we have one in any way, is to represent the Palestinian people completely." The Othman family, who are among the wealthiest families in Ramallah with holdings in telecommunications and cellular companies, owns The Palestine Times. "The paper was initially my investment. As the ball got rolling my family members from all over the world started to take part. It became a private family investment," said Othman. He said that in the future, he hoped that more of the paper's revenue would be generated by ads and that Israeli companies had already expressed interest in advertising in the paper. Three Arabic-language dailies are published in the PA, Al Quds, Al Ayyam and Al Hayat Al Jadida. The last English language Palestinian daily, Al Fajr, went out of business in the 1990s.

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