Palestinian Authority Shuts Arab Newspaper Over Report on Israel Ties

RAMALLAH (Reuters) -

The Palestinian Authority shut down the local office of a pan-Arab newspaper this week after accusing it of “offensive” reporting on Palestinian security coordination with Israel, officials said.

As Palestinian-Israeli street violence surged last month, Al Araby Al-Jadeed daily accused the administration of jailing “dozens of [Palestinian] political prisoners on charges of resisting [the Israeli] occupation.”

The newspaper, which publishes a broadsheet in London, Beirut and Doha, also alleged torture within Palestinian jails. It branded the closure as politically motivated.

Such domestic scrutiny is touchy for the U.S.-backed Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, whose forces have quietly helped Israel curb violence while he publicly condemns Israeli crackdowns.

The Palestinian administration closed Al Araby Al-Jadeed’s Ramallah bureau on Tuesday “as it lacked a license to operate,” Deputy Information Minister Mahmoud Khalifa told Reuters.

He did not elaborate. An Oct. 20 letter from the Information Ministry to the attorney-general, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, said the newspaper had published a report that was “offensive to the State of Palestine and its security services.”

The report “made it look as if the security services have no job except to make arrests and to carry out security (coordination with Israel) which in itself is an incitement against the authority,” the letter said.

Naela Khalil, head of Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, described the bureau’s lack of a license as a pretext for the closure, which, she said, the Palestinian journalists union was trying to reverse. Failing that, she said, the newspaper will appeal the decision at the Palestinian high court of justice.