Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman signed a warrant in recent days defining Palestinian television channel Al-Quds a terrorist organization and banning its operations in Israel.
The channel, which first went live in October 2008 and broadcasts from Beirut, has offices in the Gaza Strip as well as in Ramallah and Jerusalem. It makes use of local companies to produce content.
Owners, journalists and photojournalists of a production company which collaborates with Al-Quds and is based in the Arab-majority northern city of Umm Al-Fahm were summoned on Monday morning for questioning.
During the investigation they were informed that the warrant was issued and were told that channel broadcasts in Israel were forbidden due to the fact that the Al-Quds is now considered illegal. They were also warned against continuing any work with the channel.
Attorney Omar Hamisey, who represents members of the production company who were interrogated, told Haaretz that the company's owners refused any memorandum or admission that channel is illegal.
Hamisey said that the security establishment persecuted and tried to stifle channels that told the Palestinian story. He said the order would not the station from broadcasting from the West Bank, Gaza and anywhere outside of Israel.
Al-Quds was founded by Palestinian businessmen living in Europe and in Arab countries. Its contents focus on the struggle of the Palestinian people, with emphasis on news items relating to Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees.
News broadcasts by Al-Quds (including live ones) are recorded in the Strip, the West Bank and in Israeli territories.
The channel is perceived as non-establishment due to the fact that it often criticizes the Palestinian Authority. It is considered to be affiliated with Hamas, and maintains a traditional, Islamist agenda in its contents.
Yousef Jabareen, an Israeli lawmaker and member of the Joint List party, called the shuttering of Al-Quds "the continuation of a silencing crusade by the extreme right-wing government to trample the freedom of speech."
"Many people in the Arab community as well as Arab lawmakers often give interviews to the channel, and what we say at the Knesset podium we also say there. The channel exposes the crimes of the occupation and the suffering of the Palestinian people," Jabareen added.
Hamas official Rafah Moreh called Israel's step "another terrorist step in addition to the other violent measures Israel has decided to take against the Palestinian people."