1. After several months of test broadcasts, Hamas's Al-Quds TV channel went on air at 8 PM on November 11, 2008 . The channel first aired the evening prayer held in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which was then followed by a short movie about the so-called "right of return”. After that, a news anchor sitting in a state-of-the-art studio described the long way the channel had come from inception to launch. The first programs of the channel introduced several show hosts and presenters; also featured was an interview with Sheikh Ra'ed Salah, the head of the Islamic Movement in Israel , who congratulated the new channel. Haniyah's administration released a statement welcoming the launch (Filastin al-‘An, November 12).
2. Al-Quds is Hamas's second satellite TV channel, joining the Gaza-based Al-Aqsa TV as yet another constituent of that organization's extensive and growing media network. In addition to the two satellite TV channels, Hamas also has a daily newspaper (Felesteen) published in the Gaza Strip, other organs, several news agencies, and over twenty websites and online forums in eight languages for various target audiences. Hamas places considerable significance on the development of its media empire as a central tool in the battle for hearts and minds, spending considerable resources on it despite its financial difficulties .
The contents of the new channel
3. According to its director general, Nabil al-Otaibi, Al-Quds strives to be an all-Palestinian channel "for all those devoted to the issue of Jerusalem and Palestine ”. He also noted that the channel would be broadcasting shows about politics, history, society, culture, economics, sports, and arts, adding that Al-Quds wished "to correct the perception of the Palestinian cause on the Arab and international scenes, as well as in the popular and official spheres...” (PNN, October 23). Also according to Al-Otaibi, the channel will embrace "the fundamental principles and rights of the Palestinian people, mainly the right for liberation and resistance” (i.e., supporting terrorism). He added that the channel was committed to prove its neutrality and professionalism to the Arab viewer (Al-Jazeera Net, October 27, 2008 ). Despite the flowery talk, it can be expected that the channel will express Hamas's ideology and policy similarly to the Al-Aqsa channel (as was well demonstrated during Al-Quds's first day of broadcasts).
4. During the months of test broadcasts, it was said that the channel's purpose was to bring the issue of Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque to the top of the public agenda. Throughout the entire test period, the channel aired a repetitive video track showing various personalities who praised the launch and goals of the new channel. Among them was Sheikh Ra'ed Salah, the head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel , as well as Palestinian clerics and poets.
5. The news edition broadcasted on November 11 concentrated on Hamas-related issues. The main items follow:
a. An exclusive announcement by Khaled Mash'al, the Hamas Political Bureau Chief, on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of Yasser Arafat's death. Khaled Mash'al eulogized Arafat, praised his heritage, and criticized Abu Mazen. He raised the (false) claim that Arafat was poisoned by "Zionists and their proxies”.
b. The developing crisis in the Gaza Strip due to the closing of the crossings and the cessation of fuel transport to the power plant. An interview on that subject was held with Hamas activist Jamal al-Khudari, head of the Popular Committee against the Siege.
c. Abu Mazen's speech and Hamas's response to it.
d. A confrontation between Hamas representative in Beirut Osama Hamdan and Taysir Nasrallah, a Fatah member of the Palestinian National Council.
e. A report which covered public opinion on the Palestinian street in the Gaza Strip, claiming that most residents believe that the "real resistance” should still be aimed against the "occupation”.
Images from the Al-Quds studio on its launch day (Palestine-info, November 12, 2008)
Technical information on the channel
6. The channel is owned by the Al-Quds Radio and Television Company, registered in London with Arab and Palestinian businessmen and media entrepreneurs. As already mentioned, the channel's director general is Nabil al-Otaibi. The Gaza City office is run by the Hamas-affiliated journalist Imad al-Faranji, who for many years served as the head of the Gaza City office of the daily Al-Quds, was the director of the Al-Watan Press Bureau, and member of the board of the Hamas-affiliated Palestinian journalist's faction.
Al-Quds director general Nabil al-Otaibi
(Al-Jazeera, October 28, 2008)
7. The channel broadcasts via two Arab communications satellites: Nilesat —an Egyptian -owned satellite company broadcasting to the Middle East and North Africa, and Arabsat, an inter-Arab satellite company a third of whose shares are owned by Saudi Arabia . 1 It broadcasts to the Middle East and North Africa . The satellite broadcasts can also be viewed in several south European countries where local Arab communities live. The Al-Quds channel's offices are located in Lebanon , even though they claim to be broadcasting "from the heart of Jerusalem ”.
The Hamas identity of the new channel
The channel's logo: the Dome of the Rock viewed from above,
with Arabic and English text saying "Al-Quds”
8. The Al-Quds TV channel attempts to portray itself as reflecting overall Palestinian views; however, its themes, its leaders, and publications on Hamas's media make it clear that it is yet another TV channel owned by Hamas. According to Imad al-Faranji, the director of the channel's Gaza City office, it is a national channel founded by a group of Palestinian personalities residing in Europe, in the Persian Gulf states, and in Arab countries, whose broadcasts will promote general Palestinian interests and the desire for unity. He said that the channel was broadcasting from Bahrain and that the Bahrain team would soon move to Beirut (Hamas forum, November 5, 2007 ).
9. The start of the channel's test broadcasts was promoted and publicized on Hamas's news websites (Radio al-Aqsa website, Felesteen newspaper), however, they did not explicitly state who was behind the channel. On the occasion of the channel's launch, a congratulatory announcement on behalf of Hamas activist Jamal al-Khudari was published on the front page of the Hamas daily Felesteen (March 17). A Hamas forum reported that the channel was connected to the international Lebanese-based Quds Foundation, which is affiliated with Hamas. The Hamas administration Information Bureau issued a statement welcoming the new channel. It praised the initiative of founding the channel, calling upon its operators to deliver the messages of the Palestinian people to the world "based on the Palestinian rights and fundamental principles” (Filastin al-‘An website, November 12).
10. Why did Hamas see fit to establish a new TV channel when it already has Al-Aqsa TV? The reasons are still not sufficiently clear to us. A web surfer on the Hamas forum noted that the channel belonged to Hamas and that it was supposed to be a backup in case the Al-Aqsa channel is shut down due to a possible escalation in the Gaza Strip (Hamas forum, March 17, 2008 ). Another web surfer on the Hamas forum (July 5) noted that, while the channel belonged to Hamas, its association with the movement would not be as obvious as Al-Aqsa's. We believe it is also possible that the establishment of the new TV channel is a result of internal rivalries within Hamas.
1 Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV and Al-Aqsa, Hamas's satellite TV channel, also use those satellite companies for dissemination of their broadcasts.