Talking to the Israeli media is a grievous offense in Palestinian society, as Ibrahim al-Madhoun’s case shows.
A Palestinian political analyst who was recently interviewed on an Israeli TV channel was forced to apologize after angry Palestinians accused him of the crime of “normalization” with Israelis.
Ibrahim al-Madhoun, a political analyst and director of the Youth Media Center, Hamas’ media wing, appeared on Israel’s i24 News in a Skype interview last month about the situation of the so-called Palestinian refugees.
His appearance elicited a wave of negative reactions among Palestinians on social media who viewed the interview as “media normalization,” meaning establishing a dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis through the media,” Al monitor reported.
Madhoun’s interview violated a 2012 decision by Hamas Palestinians from working with the “hostile” Israeli media.
While Madhoun spoke about the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s (UNRWA) financial crisis and its negative repercussions for the so-called Palestinian refugees, this pro-Palestinian content was not enough to shield him from criticism.
Hadi al-Ijla, a Palestinian political researcher at the Institute for Middle East Studies in Canada, took to Facebook to criticize Madhoun’s appearance, stressing that refusing to engage with Israeli media is part of “Palestinian resistance against the occupation.”
Independent journalist Mohammed Jaser wrote on Facebook, “Your appearance on an Israeli channel will not change the conviction of the Israeli settlers. You are just a terrorist to them even if you are peaceful!”
‘Give the Palestinian Audience What They Want’
Madhoun apologized a day after the interview.
“I only wanted to introduce Israeli society to a Palestinian narrative and a message of resistance from the streets to influence Israeli viewers, alter their convictions and shake their domestic front,” he wrote. “I formally apologize to Palestine’s youth, media and every citizen for my misjudgment of the situation.”
Madhoun told Al-Monitor that “now that I have apologized, I will not appear on an Israeli channel. i24News contacted me for another appearance, but I declined. I have decided to give the Palestinian audience what they want.”
Salameh Maarouf, head of the Hamas government’s media office in Gaza City, told Al-Monitor that Hamas believes there is no point in having a dialogue with the Israeli public or dealing with its media. Hamas sees “media normalization as recognition of the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories,” he said.
“Media normalization” with Israel is not limited to Israeli media interviewing Palestinians, but also includes Palestinian media interviews with Israelis, Al-Monitor noted.
An interview by Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds with Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman in October 2016 also sparked an angry reaction among Palestinians. The piece was later removed from the paper’s website.
Nashat al-Aqtash, a professor of journalism and public relations at Birzeit University in Ramallah, told Al-Monitor that leaving the decision about whether to talk to Israeli media to individuals is “unacceptable normalization with Israel.”
However, he would not oppose having “professional media experts who speak with the Israeli media in order to make a real breakthrough with the Israeli public, by conveying the Palestinian narrative.”
However, such professionals do not exist yet, in his opinion.