Tired of Al Jazeera? I’m beaming kosher TV across the Middle East
Galia Albin: the next Oprah?
Next week, for the first time, a Jewish news channel will begin broadcasting via satellite to the entire Middle East, trying to persuade the Arabs that a Jewish presence in their midst is not such a bad idea after all.
Unlike previous grandiose plans to launch a pro-Israel hasbarah channel to counter the influence of Al Jazeera, this project is much more humble, at least to start with.
Israeli businesswoman Galia Albin has just bought a controlling stake in the small Jewish Life TV (JLTV) channel, which is currently carried on American cable and digital services.
From now on, JLTV will broadcast, by satellite, to the entire Arab world.
JLTV’s fare includes mainly documentaries and feature films on Jewish-related subjects and some current affair programmes. Ms Albin is planning to host her own “Oprah” style chat show, recorded in an Israeli studio.
The channel’s entire programming will remain in English, perhaps with Arabic subtitles, but Ms Albin insists that she is only interested in “the educated 10 per cent of the Arab world that speak English and have been exposed to Western culture and want to do business with the world”.
She believes that they are much more open to hearing positive messages about Israel and Jews than combative propaganda.
“These people already know that the Palestinian problem is mainly a political weapon to perpetuate a flawed power structure in the Arab states and that six decades have proven that force just won’t work.”
And what better way to persuade them to lay down their weapons than JLTV profiles of Jewish Nobel prizewinners and coverage of the Maccabiah.
“They see the technological advance in Israel, what Egypt and Jordan are getting out of their peace treaties,” says Albin. “Even Syria understands that if it wants to engage with the United States, they have to talk to the Jews first.”
Galia Albin was never a typical tycoon. After inheriting her first fortune from her late husband, she launched the short-lived Israeli edition of Penthouse magazine and produced her own feature film in which she played the starring role, before going on to make much more money in real estate.
In recent years she has learned acting and been involved in public work on the diaspora scene. For her latest project she got thousands of Jews around the world to sing Hatikvah in an international live broadcast on the eve of Israel’s Independence Day.
Now she believes she has the key to the hearts and minds of the Arab nations.