The Elia Association for Youth, a Palestinian youth center and media association based in Jerusalem, was forcibly closed on 16 April on the order of far-right racist Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who accused the center of being “terrorist” and linked to the Palestinian leftist political party, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Israeli intelligence reportedly described the video productions and news reports of the agency as “inflammatory,” as the center’s reports regularly covered ongoing attacks on Palestinian rights in Jerusalem. This is yet another example of the ongoing Israeli attacks on Palestinian expression, from the imprisonment of journalists to their targeting for violent attacks, including the killing of journalist Yaser Murtaja at the Great Return March in Gaza.
The closure of the Elia Association also comes as hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested and imprisoned for making political posts on social media sites, particularly Facebook.
Ahmad Safadi, director of the Elia Association, spoke with Wattan News, saying that the closure was first noted with a Tweet by Lieberman, which the Association ignored as it has no legal standing. The next day, police and intelligence agencies posted a closure order on the door of the association’s headquarters on Salah al-Din street. He said that the order stated that the closure was “temporary,” but that the experience of Palestinian institutions was that such orders were renewed constantly. He said that the Israeli occupation seeks to remove all Palestinian inatitutions from Jerusalem and prevent Palestinian media from presenting the perspective of Palestinians. Over the years, over 100 Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem have been forcibly closed by such Israeli orders.
Safadi said that Elia is a media institution that provides important information and reports about the situation in Jerusalem as well as providing youth an opportunity to develop their professional skills in media, including reporting, video production and distribution. In an interview with Israeli media, Lieberman said that Elia is “recruiting and preparing terrorist operatives to produce provocative videos that support terrorist activities,” labeling the act of reporting on Palestinians in Jerusalem as “terrorism.”
The Democratic Journalists’ Assembly denounced Lieberman’s action as “organized state terrorism and a new crime against the Palestinian media which monitors Israeli violations and crimes against the Palestinian people, especially in occupied Jerusalem,” noting that the “allegations against Elia are nothing more than pretexts of the occupation to close the institution and prosecute and terrorize Palestinian journalists and media institutions.”
Further, the Palestinian NGO Network said that the action reflected a trend of targeting Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem as the Palestinian population are subjected to a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing. “The closure order signed by the minister of the occupation army comes in the framework of a frantic quest to stop the social services of the Jerusalem institutions and the action against the Elia Association is a blatant example of this trend.” The statement also said that “Israel should be the last to speak about terrorism, considering its ongoing crimes and cold-blooded killings on a daily basis without accountability,” and expressed support to Elia and all of the institutions subject to a campaign of repression including pulling licenses, restrictions on transfers and bank accounts and international propaganda campaigns that attempt to dry up sources of funding.
One week later, repressive attacks on Palestinian institutions and expression in Jerusalem continued, as occupation forces stormed Safa Press in Beit Anan, northwest of Jerusalem on 22 April. At around 6:00 am, occupation forces violently entered the press, severely damaging the walls of the press and confiscating a printing machine and a computer and posting a notice on the door that the press would be closed for two months. Again, “supporting terrorism” was used as the pretext to forcibly silence Palestinian media.