Al-Manar (Arabic for “The Beacon”) Television is a station and satellite channel that began broadcasting from the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley region of southeastern Lebanon on June 3, 1991. It was granted a broadcast license by the Lebanese Government on January 1, 1997.
Because of its close ties to the terrorist group Hezbollah, this network, writes investigative reporter Shawn Macomber, could also be called “Hezbollah TV.” According to the chairman of Al-Manar’s Board, Nayef Krayem, Al-Manar and Hezbollah “breathe life into one another…. Each provides the other with inspiration. Hezbollah uses Al-Manar to express its stands and its views, etc. Al-Manar in turn receives political support for its continuation.”
Like Hezbollah, Al-Manar broadcasts a consistent message of what its own original website describes as “resistance activity” to liberate “the occupied territories” from “Israeli arrogance.” Also like Hezbollah, Al-Manar is both radical and devoted to the Shi’ite denomination of Islam. Its current website celebrates the Shi’ite holy day Ashoura and features a photograph of the cleric who imposed a theocratic Shi’ite dictatorship in Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini. That Iranian dictatorship is one source of Al-Manar Television’s funding; the dictator of Syria is another.
“Al-Manar,” says the organization’s current website, “is the first Arab establishment to stage an effective psychological warfare against the Zionist enemy [Israel].” Both Al-Manar’s programs and its website honor the “martyrs” who have tried, often successfully, to kill Israelis. It also repeatedly rebroadcasts the rallies and speeches by leaders of Hezbollah and Hamas. (On some occasions, it has broadcast propaganda programs in Hebrew aimed at Israeli viewers.)
Al-Manar’s most popular program, launched in the fall of 2003, is a game show called “The Mission.” Contestants are given a monetary prize incentive to answer questions based on Hezbollah assertions about purported Israeli atrocities, alleged historic evils of Jews, American and European wickedness, names of terrorist martyrs and the like. Correct answers earn contestants points and move them on a map closer to Jerusalem. The first to reach 60 points lands on the holy city and is awarded five million Lebanese pounds (about $3,000) while a popular Hezbollah rally song plays.
“Any program at this television station must present the idea that the occupation of Palestine must end,” the host of “The Mission” Ihab Abi Nassif, a 28-year-old high-school physics teacher, told New York Times reporter Neil MacFarquhar. “That is the core issue, which is why we work day and night to keep it vivid in people’s minds.”
Claiming to defend “family values,” Al-Manar Television was created, according to its website, because “there was a desperate need for a channel that parents would be reassured when they knew their children were watching. … to establish a good child personality on sound moral basis plus developing their capabilities.” Al-Manar’s audience, says the website, are “those who are eager to know the truth and entertain themselves with something that would not draw the anger of the Almighty or contribute in corrupting them and their children.”
Al-Manar programming has been broadcast to North America via San Francisco-based Link TV’s program Mosaic, funding for which has come from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Otto Haas Charitable Trust, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. This made Al-Manar available on the pay satellite systems DISH Network and DirecTV, where it could be viewed by Arabic speakers throughout the United States. Link TV ceased airing Al-Manar footage after the U.S. State Department placed the latter on its official Terrorist Exclusion List in December 2004.
The Middle East Media Research Institute reported that on November 29, 2005, Al-Manar broadcast a symposium where participants openly called for Israel’s destruction. Among the comments made by those participants were: “Israel must be wiped out”; “Israel should be completely wiped out, so the Palestinians will have a country to return to”; “Just like Hitler fought the Jews — We are a great Islamic nation of Jihad, and we too should fight the Jews and burn them”; “As for Israel, the only cure for it is to wipe it off the map.”