Last weekend saw the launching of the new Website of Al-Ittihad – the only Arabic-language daily newspaper in Israel, owned and managed by the the Communist Party of Israel. Al-Ittihad (The Union) was established in Haifa in 1944 during the British Mandatory Period over Palestine. The newspaper is the oldest Arab media outlet in Israel and is considered the most important.
Emil Touma, Fuad Nassar and Emil Habibi founded the paper as a weekly. Its first edition was published on May 14, 1944. Habibi edited the paper until 1989. The colonial British authorities shut down the newspaper in February 1948, but it reopened October 18 of that year, five months after the British ended the rule in Palestine. Al-Ittihad is the only pre-state Arabic-language paper to that has been published continuously after Israel declared its independence. In 1948, it moved to its new offices on Al-Hariri Road in Haifa from where it still operates. This building was hit and badly damaged by a rocket fire by the Hezbollah during Israel’s Second Lebanon War in 2006.
In the wake of the 1948 war and the displacement of some 750,000 Palestinian Arabs from their homes in what is commonly referred to as the Nakba (Catastrophe), Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel were subject to a military government until 1966, and during this period the paper was banned in some areas of the state. Following Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in June 1967, the paper was banned for a number of years in those areas.
In 1953 Al-Ittihad and its Hebrew sister daily communist newspaper, Kol HaAm (The Voice of People) published an editorial against Israeli intervention alongside US imperialism in the Korean War, which resulted in both papers being closed for 15 days by order of the Minister of Interior Affairs, Israel Rokach. The two papers filed a petition before the Supreme Court, which ruled that the suspension order had been wrongly made and should be set aside. That judgment established the legal precedent for freedom of speech and freedom of the press in Israel that has been in effect from 1953 up to this very day.
After its initial appearance as a weekly paper, Al-Ittihad subsequently was published as a biweekly, and eventually became a daily in 1983. In 1988, the government once again ordered the paper closed for a week, four months after the outbreak of the First Intifada and six days before demonstrations scheduled for Land Day (March 30, 1988).
Al-Ittihad’s new Website: http://www.alittihad44.com
Al-Ittihad on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Ittihad