Summary: The Ma’an Network is allied with a number of highly politicized Palestinian NGOs, whose activities contribute to the demonization of Israel. Projects with Badil and MIFTAH promote Palestinian rejectionism, and reflect a highly distorted history that contributes to conflict. In addition, Ma’an News is a platform for the publication of statements by radical Palestinian NGOs, including the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. Ma’an News’ archive includes many uses of the term "apartheid," accusations of "ethnic cleansing", and references to terrorism as resistance. As documented by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), the English language version of Ma’an News sanitizes “ the hate ideology espoused by the terror organizations that deny Israel’s right to exist [and] express reverence for suicide terrorists." Donors to Ma’an Network include US government’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) and United States Institute of Peace; the Dutch and Danish governments, the UN and the EU.
The Ma’an Network was established in 2002 as a “non-governmental organization composed of ten independent TV stations which are based in the major cities of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. ” Its stated aims are to encourage "democracy and freedom of speech in Palestine …” and to “strive toward sustainable development, human rights, and promoting understanding between populations.”
The Network runs a number of "main projects," funded by international government and non-governmental sources. Donors include the US government’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) and United States Institute of Peace; the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Denmark Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the US-based National Endowment for Democracy and Academy for Educational Development; the United Nations Development Programme and European Commission Technical Assistance Office.
Many of the Ma’an Network’s activities appear to fulfil its goals of fostering "global standards of [media] excellence" and ensuring the "Palestinian people are informed, active participants in an accountable society." These projects include the live broadcasting of Palestinian Legislative Council meetings, journalist training sessions and children’s television programming. However, the Ma’an Network’s cooperation with a number of highly politicised NGOs, and its operation of the Ma’an News Agency, undermines these aims, and raises questions regarding donor supervision and approval.
Ma’an Network promotes radical NGOs: Badil and MIFTAH
Ma’an Network’s promotion of these NGOs that actively promote the NGO strategy adopted at the 2001 Durban Conference, to demonize Israel and undermine its right to self defense in international law, contradicts both its stated principles and those of its funders.
In May 2003, the Network ran a joint project with Badil, and broadcast a number of Badil’s films throughout a 2 week "campaign for the commemoration of the 55th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba." The use of the term "Nakba" (catastrophe) to describe the establishment of Israel, and Badil’s continued denial of Israel’s legitimacy ("55 years of Palestinian Nakba are enough!!") reflects this NGO’s rejectionist promotion of the Palestinian "right of return." Badil repeatedly uses a distorted history of the Palestinian refugee issue, adopts the language of demonization and uses UN resolutions selectively in order to pursue it’s politicized and ideological agenda. In 2005, Badil was refused accreditation by the UN Economic and Social Council, and in January 2006, it received consultative status despite the US, France, and Germany’s objections because of the NGO’s position on "equating Zionism with racism."
In February and March 2003, the Ma’an Network also produced a series of talk shows with the Palestinian NGO, MIFTAH. Although these were designed to address "women’s rights and education," MIFTAH’s extremist political activities raise concerns about Ma’an’s choice of partner. MIFTAH’s approach to women’s rights reflects its distorted view of the conflict, as illustrated by a July 5, 2006 article on "’Palestinian Women and the Intifada." This piece details the difficulties facing Palestinian women but simplistically attributes them all to Israel, ignoring intra Palestinian factors. It concludes that the "Israeli occupation remains a major obstacle for Palestinian women with regard to their advancement, self-reliance and integration in the development and planning of their society." This article also describes female-orchestrated terrorist attacks as "resistance," and comments that the first Palestinian female suicide bombing, “marked the beginning of a string of Palestinian women dedicated to sacrificing their lives for the cause.”
The Ma’an News Agency
The Ma’an News Agency is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Danish International Development Assistance. It describes itself as "one of the main projects of the Ma’an Network" and as "reliable, objective, accurate, balanced, and informed."
Ma’an News frequently acts as a platform for the promotion of the Durban strategy, undermining its claim to "produc[e] objective and professional news" and contradicts the development aims of its funding sources. Ma’an’s archive includes numerous examples of subjective, biased reporting that uses the term "apartheid," includes accusations of ethnic cleansing, and refers to terrorism as resistance. Ma’an also publishes highly one-sided material from sources such as Electronic Intifada.
Ma’an News regularly re-publishes material from a number of highly politicized NGOs, whose non-verifiable or inaccurate claims do not contribute to its objective of accurate news. For example, Ma’an publicizes the Palestinian Center for Human Rights’ (PCHR) "weekly reports," which feature claims regarding the number of Palestinians killed or injured by Israeli forces. No sources are given to substantiate these claims, which are compiled by PCHR fieldworkers, and therefore cannot be verified. Given PCHR’s routine omission of context in order to demonize Israeli actions, its lobbying against the country in international forums such as the UN, its frequent accusation of ethnic cleansing, apartheid and collective punishment, and its use of the term "activists" to describe Palestinian terrorists, its credibility as a source of factual information is highly suspect.
Ma’an News also features press releases from MIFTAH (discussed above) which uncritically repeat the NGO’s agenda. For example February 8, 2006 news item reported a MIFTAH statement that erased the key fact of Hamas’ failure to renounce violence or recognize Israel, in its condemnation of the international community for sanctioning the PA based on the outcome of the Palestinian "democratic process."
Badil and Al Mezan are also cited regularly and uncritically on Ma’an News. For example in this supposed news story, "Palestinian human rights NGO’s condemn Israel’s ‘appalling act of mass murder’ in Beit Hanoun," the News Agency reinforces the NGO declaration of a "massacre," and provides a platform for Badil, Al Mezan and others to condemn Israel for "war crimes," and "brutality … without the observance of the principles of discrimination, proportionality or military necessity."
In a report published on February 27, 2007, Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) examines the sanitization of Ma’an News’ articles in English while the reports in Arabic “include the hate ideology espoused by the terror organizations that deny Israel’s right to exist [and] express reverence for suicide terrorists… "
PMW cites the example of Ma’an’s reporting of the Eilat suicide bombing on January 29, 2007. In its English articles, Ma’an states that “an explosion has occurred in the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat ” while in Arabic referring to it as “Eilat located in the south of occupied Palestine” [PMW’s translation]. PMW further illustrates the disparity between how the suicide bomber is portrayed in English and Arabic. In the English article, no reference is made to the suicide bombing being an act of martyrdom whilst PMW translates the Arabic to show that the bomber’s mother is referred to as “mother of the Shahada [Martyr]". The terrorists are also referred to as “Palestinian resistance men”, [PMW’s translation] in Arabic, but in English Ma’an describes the perpetrators as “armed Palestinian men ” and no reference is made to the term "resistance."
In response to PMW’s report, Ma’an News’ chief English editor, said: "We have never tried to hide the fact that we cater to a different audience and therefore need to employ a different language."
The Ma’an Network’s projects to improve Palestinian media and society are overshadowed by its close links with highly politicised NGOs which promote conflict rather than internal development or peace-building. Ma’an News Agency’s extensive repetition of these and other NGO statements, combined with the heavy bias of its own reports, further makes it a key actor in the "Durban Strategy," and contradicts the funding aims of its donors.