A bridge to the Arab world

Israel’s first Arabic-language TV station can help shape a new platform from which the "real" Israel, with its advantages and disadvantages, can be presented from its Arab minority’s point of view.

By ISSA EDWARD BOURSHEH
June 5, 2011 22:51
2 minute read.
ISSA EDWARD BOURSHEH

ISSA EDWARD BOURSHEH. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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One of the core sources of information for the Arab world including Palestinian-Israelis is the satellite network. That is where Al- Jazeera was launched and that fertile ground is well serving the Arab Spring in the Middle East and North Africa. But the question remains, how does Israel fit into this notion?

The Council for Cable TV and Satellite Broadcasting recently announced that the Hala TV group had won a bid to launch Israel’s first Arabic-language station. An independent Palestinian-Israeli network, with the licensing from the Ministry of Communication, will offer a framework for unique Arabic content unlike the current government sponsored Arab-Israeli channel 33.

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This process, started with the initial approval, if done in a genuine way, will bring a new platform for broader freedom of speech for Israel’s biggest minority. The channel will compensate for the current reality in which public visibility of Palestinian- Israelis in Israel’s mainstream television is sorely lacking. It will reach out not only to Israel’s majority but also to the Arab world that has been constantly unable to fully understand the mutant they tend to call the “Arabs of 48.”

THE CHANNEL can also further introduce the “real” Israel with its advantages and disadvantages from its minority’s point of view.

Israeli TV channels mainly cover politics in the Arab world that concern Israel, and avoid social and cultural elements both local and regional.

Important topics like civil society, women empowerment, religious debates between Christians and Muslims, literature, music and even dubbed Turkish dramas to Arabic are amongst many that are not sufficiently broadcasted to Israelis.

I have no illusions or expectations for such coverage on Israeli television, but a Palestinian-Israeli independent TV channel would fill in the void.



Let us keep in mind that in order for this channel to succeed it should be operated similarly to other commercial channels in Israel. There are plenty of talented individuals that can make this project successful and they should be brought to the frontline of the operation. The channel content could set an example and make a bigger effort than the traditional Israeli channels to bring the real disputes and common interest of both Arabs and Jews, and not avoid such discussion.

We can’t shape our lives by standing on the sidelines ignoring each other. We should take an extra step toward the other and this starts with visibility.

This step is an excellent illustration promoting the value of a common destiny and shared values as oppose to a policy of segregation and separation that is taking over the public dispute in recent times.

The writer is a graduate student at Tel Aviv University.

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