The New Arab Logo

Breaking News
Syrian Orient TV 'working with Israel to improve public opinion in Syria' Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Syrian Orient TV 'working with Israel to improve public opinion in Syria'

A journalist at Orient TV was fired after refusing to attending further meetings with Israelis

Date of publication: 7 February, 2018

Share this page:
  • 0

  • twitter
An investigation by The New Arab's sister publication found links between anti-Assad Orient TV and Israeli army officials in its 'Good Neighbours' programme.
The Israeli military occupation of Syria's Golan Heights is a "safeguard of safety for residents" with a role to "facilitate the return of refugees", according to the owner and chairman of Orient TV, a Syrian news outlet based in Dubai.

The comments made by the Syrian businessman Mohammed Ghassan Aboud are not the first of their kind, despite having previously described Israel as like "a brothel that many wish to visit, but where none want to be seen".

Orient TV was also involved in discussions with Israeli officials over how to improve Israel's public image in Syria through an orchestrated media campaign, a former journalist for the station has claimed.

An internal memo circulated by Aboud to the channel's staff in May last year declared that "most Israelis are of Arab origin" and the rejection of relations with Israel was "a disaster in the making" for people of the region.

An investigation by al-Araby al-JadeedThe New Arab's Arabic-language sister publication, found more to Aboud's sentiments than meets the eye. 

Israel had exploited the war to approach some local militias, but not to support the resistance of the Syrian people against the Assad regime

Links were found between organisations he leads and the Israeli army, in particular the Husn al-Jiwar [Good Neighbours] programme, which was founded, directed and supervised by Israeli army commanders targeting southern Syria.

 
In messages sent to editorial staff, Aboud said the Lebanese
treated Syrians badly, and claimed Jordan's government
took a large slice of the aid that was meant to go to Syrians
there, whereas 250 tonnes of aid had been transported
to Syria via Israel, and the Israelis had taken nothing
[Click to enlarge]


The programme seeks to promote the idea that there are no border disputes between Israel and Syria, and that the Golan Heights - long contested by Syrians as under Israeli occupation - is now fully under Israeli control.

The Goodwill Border project kicked off at the end of 1975, following the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war. Through the programme, Israel offered token humanitarian aid and found cheap Lebanese labour. Tel Aviv officials still cite the project as an example of its humanitarian efforts.  

Nearly half a century later, Israel announced its Good Neighbours programme in July 2017. The statement released by the Israeli army highlighted efforts that had been ongoing since February 2013.

The programme, according to the Israeli military, aims to foster good relations with Syrians living on the border, ostensibly to create a non-hostile environment for Israel by providing relief and medical aid.

In the same way the Goodwill Border project was highlighted by Israel, Good Neighbours was lauded as "evidence" that Israel was a conscientious humanitarian actor amid the Syrian conflict - despite Israeli aid to Syria amounting to less than $6 million a year, according to al-Araby al-Jadeed.

While Israel styles itself as a bastion of human rights and claims to support the Syrian revolution, it has embarked on a campaign of vilification against Syrian refugees, accusing them of being the root of terrorism in Europe.

While Israel styles itself as a bastion of human rights and claims to support the Syrian revolution, it has embarked on a campaign of vilification against Syrian refugees, accusing them of being the root of terrorism in Europe

Furthermore, Israel's current plans to expel nearly 40,000 African migrants highlights its hypocrisy and calls into question its "good neighbour" status.

"Now that Israel has achieved its strategic aim of destroying Syria by aligning itself to Washington and Moscow, there is no longer any need for it to hide its support for Assad to remain in power in order to maintain the instability and continue their control over southern Syria," Syrian academic Burhan Ghalioun told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

Israel had exploited the war "to approach some local militias, but not to support the resistance of the Syrian people against the Assad regime", Ghalioun added.

Orient's involvement

Orient TV's representatives had met with Israeli security and political officials several times, sources revealed to al-Araby al-Jadeed.

One meeting, verified by two separate sources, was held in Madrid in October 2016. At this meeting, Mohamed Ammar Martini - director of the Orient group - and Ghassan Aboud met with Shadi Martini, the director of humanitarian relief and regional relations at the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees (MFA), a New York-based coalition of 90 secular and religious communities.

Also at the meeting were a number of international relief organisations, including Israeli groups.

Shadi Martini told al-Araby al-Jadeed: "I was a representative of MFA, and the meeting with relief organisations was to find partners."

He confirmed that the Good Neighbours programme was run by the Israeli army, adding that the aid that MFA had helped bring into southern Syria was via that programme.

The Syrian-Israeli Humanitarian Partnership of Hope thanked the Israeli army for its cooperation in opening a new relief channel and 'a path towards a stable future in the region'

A press release published in July 2017 on the MFA's website, titled The Syrian-Israeli Humanitarian Partnership of Hope thanked the Israeli army for its cooperation in opening a new relief channel and "a path towards a stable future in the region".

 
In further messages sent to staff, Aboud urged journalists
to 'see the bigger picture' with regards to
the role of Israel in Syria [Click to enlarge]


Five days after that press release, Aboud sent a memo to Orient staff in which he asked correspondents "for better comments and views on the Israeli Good Neighbours project".

Dima Ezzeddin is a journalist who formerly worked for Orient TV. She also attended the meeting in Madrid.

"During the meeting, a practical discussion was held on the relief aspect, and a discussion on the prospects for possible media cooperation to improve the image of the Syrian revolution among the Israeli public - and to improve Syrian public opinion on Israel," she told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

"We were informed by the chairman of the board that an American organisation, which was sponsoring dialogue and efforts to resolve the conflict, would lead the meeting, and that the meeting would be attended by Israelis sympathetic to the Syrian cause."

She refused to attend further meetings because of the involvement of Israeli groups, and claimed she had been fired from her job at Orient TV as a result.

Orient TV did not respond to The New Arab's request for comment.

The New ArabComments

Most Popular

Most Popular

    Read More