Hamas loses European TV coverage

Hamas-backed Al-Aqsa TV has been “banned” by French broadcasting authorities just hours after transmissions started from Eutelsat-associated operator Noorsat. Noorsat uses capacity leased from Eutelsat.

Palestinian group Hamas's television channel was taken off the air in Europe less than 24 hours after it was added to the satellite network, industry officials said Friday.

The decision to ban the channel was praised by the American Jewish Committee, which in a statement said “the action will sharply limit the reach into Europe of the terrorist organization's broadcasts.”

Al-Aqsa was being carried by Eutelsat on its Eurobird 2, Eurobird 9 and Atlantic Bird 4 satellites covering the whole of Europe and the Mediterranean basin. It had only gone on air on Jan 7 when the signal was “hastily interrupted” following a decision from France’s CSA regulator.

According to BBC Monitoring, the CSA said it had sent a warning to Eutelsat in December in the belief that some Al-Aqsa TV programmes were likely to breach of Article 5 of the law prohibiting incitement to hatred or violence on the grounds of race, religion or nationality.

Once it received the CSA warning, Eutelsat says it sent a message to Noorsat, the company that distributes Al-Aqsa, asking it "to respect all international and national laws regarding channel content".

Eutelsat stressed to AFP that there was no contract between Eutelsat and Al-Aqsa TV. "We have a contract with a distributing firm called Noorsat based in Bahrain. We learnt that Al-Aqsa TV was being carried on one of our satellites broadcasting to Europe on capacity that had been temporarily allocated to Noorsat for technical documentation at the start of the week," Eutelsat explained.

In a statement published on Friday, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre said that it had sent a letter to CSA President Michel Boyan, voicing its concern about Al-Aqsa TV's announcement that it was going to broadcast to Europe. "The natural audience for Al-Aqsa TV programmes will be young Arab speakers in Europe and the West who will thereby be exposed to calls from jihadis to attack their Jewish neighbours and reject the European values of secularism, multiculturalism and tolerance," the Simon Wiesenthal Centre said.

In May 2005, the Council of State, France's highest administrative court, ordered an end to broadcasts of Al-Manar, the channel of Lebanon's Hezbollah, via Eutelsat, because of alleged "anti-Semitic connotations" of its programmes.

However, other critics say that Israeli TV frequently carries anti-Islamic comments of an extreme nature. One Mid-East report (carried on Middle East Online) said pro-Israeli groups, which are influential in Europe, often exaggerate or even outright lie about the nature of Hamas discourse. Among the many infamous instances, Rabbi Ovadia Yossef, founder of the Shas religious party, had said: "It is forbidden to be merciful to them [the Arabs]. You must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable. May the Holy Name visit retribution on the heads of the Arabs and cause their seed to be lost."

Recently, commenting on the war on Gaza, former Sephardi chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu said that all civilians living in Gaza are collectively guilty for Kassam rockets, and thus deserve their punishment, reported Middle East Online.

On Friday January 9 the Gaza offices of Iranian satellite channel Al-Alam and sister channel Press TV were damaged by Israeli shelling. According to Al-Alam correspondent Hamoudi Gharib, the building was targeted although the staff maintained special identifying lights working on the roof of the building 24 hours a day to mark the building. The building's satellite coordinates were also handed to organizations responsible for the journalist’s safety, including the UN. The journalists working in the building were given safety assurances that it would not be targeted, reported BBC Monitoring.